I am a huge proponent of family meals and Chef Dad Tom Fleming is always supplying The Kid's Doctor with new family friendly recipes. I think many families are now trying to make the time to eat together at least several nights a week. Kudos to those families!
The problem that I am now seeing is that while families are trying to make a point to eat together, the meal is suddenly being invaded by technology! What I mean by this is that everyone is coming to the table with their smartphone, tablet, iPod, Nintendo DS or any other gadget or gizmo which allows one to be disengaged during mealtime.
I certainly remember many a family dinner where I could barely get three words out of any of the boys (they would tell me that they had already used up their 700 words that day), despite the numerous open ended questions that I peppered them with. We would even try to play those games like,
best thing that happened today or worst thing that happened, I think the Obamas call this thorns and roses as they too enjoy families meals.
With 3 sons and a husband I sometimes felt like it might be possible that those 4 males would eat together and never even say a word. (they tell me that when I was gone this was often the case and they did not view that as a problem!)
At any rate, part of the value of the family meal is conversation and that means with those who are gathered at the table. Emailing, texting, game playing etc. during dinner needs to be not only discouraged but forbidden. That goes for both the adults (me included) and the children.
I realize that there are many important world events happening during meal time one might miss some one's post on facebook, or a tweet or a text for a few minutes. But the need for continuous information from a gadget, or constant communication via texting does not have a place at the family meal.
It used to be that we talked about no TV during meals. I remember that rule was rarely broken during my childhood except for events like the Kennedy assassination or the men landing on the Moon. For our family we tried to continue the same rule and it was broken for events like Super Bowl, early space shuttle launches and landings and for terrible tragedies like 9/11. But we tried to keep the TV out of the dining area.
I now I find that I have to remind my children and myself to check all electronics at the door before coming into dinner. If I don't, I sometimes look down the family table and see heads bent looking at a sports score, or replying to a text about a party later that night or reading an email about work (me included). But if we all just leave the gadgets turned off/silenced and away from the table the conversation gets going.
There is not such a rush to go to the next event and the work issues are put aside for 15 - 20 minutes. We can enjoy the rare occasion that all 6 of us get to be together and actually converse in real time. The time a family can spend together talking over breakfast, lunch or dinner is too important and precious to be shared with others not present until the meal is over.
So, start the rule, No Tech at the Table, and enjoy family mealtime.