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Family Dinner: More Than Forks and Knives

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Mackensie Griffin’s ‘No Place For Discontent’: A History Of The Family Dinner In America from NPR NEWS recalls the beginning of family dinners as a cornerstone of family life after the 18th century, in which they became “the thing” as dining tables and dining rooms began to accommodate a whole family at once. This shift created a space and time in which all members of a family could communicate and exchange ideas in a collective manner. According to Griffin, the idea and the importance of the family dinner came to represent American values, and were fueled by television shows of 1950’s like “Leave It to Beaver” and paintings by Norman Rockwell. This communal process became ingrained into our consciousness as a goal, if not always a reality.

I especially paid attention to Griffin’s declaration of the importance of the happy nuclear family at the beginning of this trend. Griffin described a family dynamic in which “all family members be agreeable, pious and unified” around the dinner table were expected and how those expectations have not changed. Although the focus on this article is on the discord that may occur as a result of family dining, I still believe that the dinner table is still a place where a family can come together to agree or to work on disagreements. Breaking bread together is a time and an opportunity for a lot of teaching and learning for each family member when it is deemed as a non-threatening and non-judgmental setting.

Although Griffin reports that the “dining table has become a stage for all kinds of human emotions-even discontentment.” I believe you can create a sense of family while allowing family members to disagree and work on their emotions. The most important thing that can happen at the dinner table is to remember that family is not always agreeable and unified in every area, but at the end of the day, family is family.

~Coach Lily