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Mealtimes At The Zoot House

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Periodically I read an entry or a Facebook status or a tweet where someone mentions that they’re not Dinner-Around-A-Table kind of people. Brittany wrote a hysterical commentary about where her family communicates best yesterday. And every time I read something like that I think: Why are we SUCH dinner table people?

Because we are very much dinner table people.

Now…I do think Donnie periodically lets everyone eat in front of the TV if I’m not there. But for the most part? He’s a dinner table person too.

I’m not sure when that happened. I didn’t grow up a dinner table person. We had a picnic table in our kitchen that we sometimes ate around, but rarely at the same time. I didn’t have a dinner table for the first 8+ years of E’s life. We did have a picnic table like Dad’s, but it wasn’t always put together as sometimes we lived in places that didn’t fit it.

I was trying to remember when we bought our first dinner table, and I thought I’d see if I wrote about it on this blog. I did! (I love having a blog.) We bought it at a yard sale and used it as our dinner table until we moved into our current house. I think we started eating at a table back then, in 2004, when there was just three of us.

I guess it became important to me because it felt so very normal. Being raised by a single Father in an unusual home (we had gurneys as porch furniture!), I looked at a lot of “normal” things as something I didn’t have. We didn’t have a couch, a dinner table, central heat or air. You know…TOTALLY OBSCURE THINGS NO ONE HAS.

And by “no one” I mean “everyone but us”.

So, I oddly romanticized all of those things. When we finally got that table? It was like the last piece of my “normal” puzzle. A table! To eat around! Like all of my friend’s families did growing up!

At least – that’s the only good “reason” I can come up with for being so attached to eating around the dinner table.

Our lives are often too busy to all eat at the same time, but I still don’t let anyone eat in front of the TV on my watch. If there’s 3 or less of us eating at one time, I’ll allow a move to the breakfast table instead of the dining room, but I really like us all being in the dining room. And when we’re all 5 there at one time? I do the old-fashioned thing and no one is allowed to leave the table until everyone is done eating.

Again…I’m not sure WHY this is so important to me. But it is. We don’t make our beds up, we don’t really clean the deeply, we often let our grass get too tall and we never rake our leaves. But I do insist that we eat at a table. And I can’t even explain why. Does it add any great conversation? No. Most of it is spent me begging the kids to eat. Or trying to pry information out of them. “How as your day? What did you do? What did you learn?” And they are ALL THREE about as responsive as the dining room table itself.

But something about it just feels right to me. Some part of me looked at that for so long as something “normal” families do, so it is ingrained in my head to just do it – as a “normal” family.

Would they keep doing it if I wasn’t around? I don’t know. Donnie does allow the TV Dinner events periodically – but I think that’s a “special occasion” thing. (And by “special occasion” I mean “football game”.) But, I don’t think he’s emotionally attached to the action. Of course – he grew up in a “normal” family, often eating around a table. It’s nothing special to him.

But to me? It just brings me tremendous joy. Even when I’m trying to force my kids to eat something other than Mac-n-Cheese.

What about you? Did you grow up eating around the dinner table? What do you do as an adult?

17 Comments

17 thoughts on “Mealtimes At The Zoot House”

  1. I grew up in a family that sometimes ate around the dinner table, sometimes ate in the living room while watching the news. I remember it as about half of each, and it might have depended on the messiness of the food being served (spaghetti in the dining room, pizza bagels in the living room) or on something else I don’t remember (like weeknights in the dining room, weekends in the living room).

    In my current household, we eat around the table on Thanksgiving and that’s it. Most of the issue is that we have separate meals: the kids eat first, and then the grown-ups eat later.

  2. We (my parents and the five of us kids) always ate dinner together (but at the kitchen table – the dining room was for special occasions). My father would be home from work at 5:30 (we lived in a small town, and he carpooled into the “city” for work). He and my mother would sit down and have a cocktail (just one! My father called it “Mommy’s medicine”, and after having kids of my own, I know why!). At six o’clock we’d all sit down, and since there were seven of us, we would each have one night a week to say grace.

    With my own family, we always ate together (until life got complicated by sporting events). Now that my kids are both in college, most nights it’s just my husband and me. Much quieter, but the trade-off is he eats anything I make!

  3. We always ate dinner together at the table in the kitchen, and in the dining room on Sundays and holidays.

    I really really love your dining room. I would eat every meal in there!

  4. We are not a dinner table family. I hate that. My husband hates to eat at the table, and I hate the argument about it.
    Add to that the fact that I get home late every night and my nanny feeds my kids (that sounds super privileged – and trust me we live in a little townhouse) so I usually eat on my lap or over the sink on the way to a run or yoga.
    Stupid commuting. it makes me sad that we don’t eat meals together.
    My goal this year is to fix that.

  5. Like you, eating dinner at the table was NOT part of my childhood experience. And so as an adult it is very much part of what I treasure and kind of zero in on as “this is what it means to have a complete and normal family.”

    I dunno, so much of the time we’re racing off to school/work/activities… I like the dinner-table gathering as a touchpoint. It makes me happy.

  6. I grew up with all eating at the dining room table. There were 5 of us, so the breakfast area (only seated 4) wasn’t an option, and we’d do family meals. Now there are 6 of us, and there is no breakfast area, ONLY the table. And we do eat together, even though right now (with a 2 and 3 year old) its crazy and loud. I need to get better at enforcing the “we all stay at the table until the last person is done” rule, but that may come when the youngers are 3 & 4. :) I agree, we’re all so busy with work/school/activities, i feel I don’t see my kids enough. Its the one time we can really talk about the day. Sometimes better conversations happen other places (like the car, or during home work time or in stalling bed time) but I feel the TIME together is important as well. :)

  7. As I recall, research shows that families eating together (and staring at one another, not the TV) is one of the most powerful indicators of family ‘health’… especially for teens.. and even if you do have to use pliers to get some info out of them about the day :)

    Raking leaves and deep cleaning? not so much.

  8. I grew up eating around a kitchen table every single night no exceptions as a family. I distinctly remember my sister spilled her drink nearly EVERY SINGLE NIGHT for years…. YEARS, way past the age of “knowing better” and I remember one night my dad losing his temper and he actually threw his hamburger “at her” but he missed by a mile and hamburger ended up in the window screen behind her. The only time I remember him losing his temper over a meal but I can only imagine now as a parent cleaning up spilled milk or water every single night and wondering if it was going to happen forever. In my household often we get a late start on fixing dinner, the kids are starving so as soon as something they like is done I may let them eat (at the kitchen table) the hubs and I are in the kitchen with them, but if they finish before we sit down, we may just carry our plates to the living room, but if they are still in the kitchen we finish eating together. In both my parents house and mine, the dining room is for parties/special occasions, mostly because they are carpeted and I am not going to dine over carpeting with little kids too terribly often. One of my favorite memories as a child was when my Grandma started her “traveling xmas” she has 5 children local, so we would go to her on xmas eve, but on xmas day she would pop in on every household at some point. We had her for breakfast and that was the year my mom started setting the dining room table with china and crystal and we would drink our orange juice in the “good glasses” (pretending of course that it was some sort of orange colored wine) and eat our breakfast out in the dining room. As we’ve gotten married and had kids and filled up my parents house, she doesn’t have room to open up/extend the table while the kids are opening presents/setting up games… but we still have brunch and I love that!

  9. We didn’t have a formal dining room, but we did have an eat in kitchen and we always ate there all together. Sometimes, one parent would come home later than the other, but the rest of us would still eat at the table all together. Mom was adamant about etiquette and manners – not that we’re some hoity-toity family, but it was a big thing for her. She made us learn how to do a formal table setting – complete with where the knife faces, where the water glass goes vs. wine glass, etc…I never had to do a formal table setting until this year b/c I just felt like it for the holidays (damn, I haven’t posted those pics yet).

    Anyway, no one was allowed to leave the table until we were all done. We took turns clearing the table, washing dishes and wiping down the table (there are 3 of us children). No one was allowed to answer the phone, watch tv while eating OR even listen to the radio. Later on, and as our families grew, we gathered in the kitchen and ate around the counter, table, wherever we fit. But, usually still at the same time AND still no tv, no radio and definitely NO cell phone/house phone anything – answering, talking, texting, surfining, etc. The only time we’ve ever taken out the phones were to snap pics. Dinner was/is always a time to catch up and be in touch.

    With my family now, we all eat in the eat in kitchen. Formal Dining was used on Thanksgiving and Christmas. We haven’t fully furnished it yet (just moved this summer). It is a bit chaotic w/3 girls – 7, 5 and terrible 2 -, but we like it like that. I like that feeling of togtherness :)

    (sorry for rambling. maybe i should have just posted this on my blog…lol)

  10. We usually did the table thing, though we were more often at a kitchen table than in the proper dining room. I kind of miss that, as a single adult.

  11. I do not remember eating at the table as a kid. Growing up in a chaotic house made me crave stability and structure when I had my own family. We always ate at the dinner table with the television off. Sometimes we would turn the tv toward the table to eat if it was in the middle of Jeopardy (pre-dvr days) We would eat in the living room to watch a ball game on special occasions too. There were times when we had crazy schedules and not all of us could be together to eat at the table, but we tried to make it happen at least twice a week. Even now with just us and the kids gone we eat most meals at the table. When the kids come home we definitely all sit at the table together. Our kids now say it’s one of the things they remember most and that they love about how we raised them. We now talk about the memorable events that took place around the table. Not everything was life changing or exciting, but it definitely was worth it.

  12. We always ate at the table growing up. J thinks it’s funny because to this day, when we are at my parents house we still eat everything at the table. Cereal, fruit, even coffee. And we linger, but that might be an Italian thing. As in we stay sitting at the table talking for a while after the meal is over. And often my dad will start pulling out fresh fruit and cutting it up to pass around (whether you asked for it or not).

    At my own home? Not so much, but then again it’s just the two of us. And to be fair, I hate my table. It will be one of the first things to go when we stop all of this moving, and I’ll get a real table finally! Maybe then I’ll do it.

  13. We did when I was a kid, and it was mandatory. As a child, I don’t think I noticed it, but it was a nice way to reconnect with everyone at the end of the day. It’s always felt important to me, but we don’t always manage it now that I have kids of my own. We have 4 kids (ages 11, 7, 5, and 4), two of mine, and two of his, and we have them mostly the same nights, but not all. Our table right now is almost too small for all six of us, and I can’t wait until we get a nice long one! I’d say that we eat all together about 80% of the time we have kids here, which I consider a success. :-) Things can get a little chaotic in our house, and the kids seem to enjoy the time to sit together. We’ve started “What was your favorite part of your day?” and my stepdaughter is usually the one to begin it. Each kid gets a little time in the spotlight, and we get to hear at least one thing about their day.

  14. I grew up eating in front of the tv. It was just my mother and I.
    Now we eat our meals at the table or in the kitchen at the island
    It’s important to me that we gather together. I did want to mention
    The prying info out of the kids thing. I used to ask a lot of questions
    And really got no where. I was trained I forensic interviewing a couple years
    Ago and learned a trick :). I begin with “tell me everything about” (and then pick a
    Time frame). School. Day. Game. Etc. my kids all know. “Don’t leave anything out”
    It was a miracle and trains them to narrate and be descriptive.

  15. I grew up in a dinner-table household, but my fiance didn’t, and it’s sort of funny because I think we gather to eatdinner together, because that’s what people do in the evening. That’s how to eat dinner! My fiance will eat at the table with me, and then. as he swallows the last bite, he’ll say “Thank you, that was delicious!”, stand up and take his plate to the kitchen…. regardless of whether I’m still eating! So funny.

  16. I grew up with a single drug addicted mom. We usually had a table but no chairs and we ate in our bedrooms.

    Now that I have my own family we eat together. At least dinner. Either at the dining table, kitchen table or patio table. I don’t beg my kids to eat or beg them to tell me about their day, but I do listen when they do want to talk about something. The funniest things come out of my kid’s mouths at dinner. <3

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