The Dinner Dilemma.

A few weeks ago, I got my dining room table cleaned off.  Y’all, I’m talking for the first time in MONTHS.  It has been our catch-all for as long as I can remember, and the items that get put there never seem to find their way into a proper ‘place’.

But we cleaned it off.  Everything.  De-cluttered, washed, dusted.  I remember feeling true excitement, looking at my clean dinner table. 

Now we can really have family dinners!

Something I’ve been thinking about and planning since, oh, about the time Ronan could sit up.  Family dinners.  Everyone sitting around the table, eating at the same time and being together.  Conversing.  Learning how to share about your day, table manners, politeness.  One of my strongest desires to have as a ritual in my own family as my mother made it for us.  We may all go our separate ways during the day, but dinner will always be the chance to get back together and reconnect.

No more sitting and eating in front of the TV.  No more plopping Ronan down in his high-chair next to us on the couch.  No more mindless food stuffing into faces.

I couldn’t have been more excited.

I made a lovely dinner of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.  Everyone in my family LOVES this meal, including Ronan.  I set the table with place mats, dishes, silverware and glasses of water.  I imagined when Ronan and his baby sister were older, having them set the table for me.  I was excited to see how Ronan would react, how much Brock would enjoy it.

And then…

… then Brock got home.  And he didn’t want to sit at the table.  He thought it was stupid.  He wanted to relax on the couch with his food, watch a show, and decompress.

He said he hated having family dinners.

He sat in silence through the whole meal, un-interested and unwilling to give it a try.

And my hopes were crushed.

We haven’t sat at the dinner table since that night.  We still sit in front of the TV while we eat.

I am at a loss.

I feel defeated.

What do I do?

Do I force the issue?  It is so important to me, something I truly believe in.

Do I let it die?  It’s just dinner after all?

How do you feel about family dinners?  How early do you think a child should be exposed to eating at the dinner table?  How awful is it that we sit in front of the TV and eat every single night?

Please help.

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  • Kristin

    I think a child should be introduced to the dinner table as soon as they are able to sit in a high chair and eat dinner. I even like the little chairs that hook onto the table and allow the child to use the actual dinner table, which saves space and brings them that much closer to being part of the group, so to speak. Just as you, I feel quite strongly about family dinners at the table. It’s how we did it in our family. There is a place to eat and a place to relax, and when you combine the two, your relaxing place becomes the “only” place. We have a little trouble with our relaxing place being out workplace, funplace, everyplace.
    If I were you, I’d let Brock eat his dinner wherever he pleases, and you should continue to eat at the table with Ronan. I’m willing to bet that Brock will come around and see the light at some point. Might take a month, might take a year, but he will realize he’s missing something special and eventually join in.
    SO, m’dear, you go on and dress that table like you are hosting the queen, and follow your heart on this one. Just because Brock thinks it’s stupid doesn’t mean you have to feel the same way.

  • Brett

    We totally eat in front of the TV each night. I get home and the kids are normally eating (around 5:30). We do everything to get them ready for bed and then eat together on the couch around 7:30. We sit with them while they eat, but usually wait to eat when it’s ‘peaceful.’ I actually would like to eat at the dinner table–even if it’s still by ourselves, but we get lazy and just crash in the front of the TV. Probably not a good way to handle it.

  • I love family dinners. Like you, I love that time, at the end of the day, that we all come together as a family. My boys are 3 and 21 months old, and we have always done family dinners.
    I agree with the previous post, in that I would continue to sit at the table for dinner. I’m sure your husband will eventually see how important it is to you and join you guys!

  • @Lisa_Amarna

    Everything I have read (and that would be a lot) about healthy eating habits mentions mindful eating. Eating a meal without being distracted by TV etc. Focus on really enjoying your food and not just shoving it in your face. You are more likely to eat what your body needs and not eat too much. It can be a family bonding time too. That is important too. Do you really want to encourage R to pay less attention to you already? That is what teenage years are for! 🙂

  • MOM

    Here’s my take on this. You guys do lots of family time. Ronan gets lots of Mom and Dad interaction. He is not suffering from a lack thereof. Sooooooo, how about a compromise? Make one night a week family dinner table night. It doesn’t have to be every night.Just something to get him used to the table idea. Table time doesn’t have to be the only family bonding time. And I know that bonding with your son has never been a problem in your growing family. So sit and relax in front of your t.v. This will not scar him forever!! Love you lots miss you more.

  • Mandy, I am with you. Dinner is the time to sit, eat, share your day with your loved ones and dawdle before moving onto the television, book or chores.

    I try to make every dinner special. Since food is not my forte but, setting the table is, I do like you, I set the table. I feel it is the scene to the story that is about to take place: “How was your day?”

    If you and Brock have gotten into the habit of watching tv while eating- you may need to phase him out little by little. Maybe you could try again sometime next week, baby steps. It may take some time but, I’m sure that ultimately, if he sees (and knows) how much it means to you, he will give it a go!

    Also, I have to admit: there are some days that no matter how beautifully set a table is or how much your significant other wants to share their day- if your day was crappy, vegging and sulking is the best remedy.

    PS: Fran and I don’t have china but, believe me, if I had it, I would probably use it everyday! 🙂

  • I feel very strongly about family meals! (Doesn’t have to be dinner–could be breakfast, or lunch, or even a nice afternoon snack–whatever works!) We had those family dinners at the table when I was a kid, too, and I loved them. It felt so nice to have my parents’ full attention and to enjoy a meal with them. It was also great for learning table manners, etc.

    I agree with Lisa that mindful eating is healthy eating. I know I sometimes grab breakfast or lunch in front of my computer, and it’s never as satisfying as eating while paying attention. I start ignoring my body’s signals.

    Like a couple other commenters suggested, I would continue setting the table and eating dinner at it with Ronan. If Brock doesn’t want to join in, that’s fine. But I would wager that he’ll probably come around. 😉

  • Family dinners are super important to us too. Kids learn so much through modeling, that we began eating at the table when our oldest was sitting up.

    On the nights when things get crazy and we don’t eat with the kids (who still eat at the table), we eat after they go to bed and we eat in front of the tv.

    It’s tough, but it’s such a short amount of time, really. I’m such a worrier…I always think that if I pass up those moments now, I’ll look back one day and be so sad that I didn’t savor them when they were within my grasp.

  • We eat in front of the tv 4 out of 7 nights. We are trying to change it. I agree with what everyone has posted. Maybe try and compromise or do a little at the time.

  • Family meals are a big deal here. Last year we lived in a house that was so small we could only fit a table that sat 4 people in our dining area/kitchen. The kids ate together while my husband and I sat in front of the tv. Since moving, we’ve really enjoyed sitting together as a family of 6 in our large dining room. It’s the time of day I treasure most.
    I hate that your hubby doesn’t seem to be on board with family meals. I sure hope that they’ll suck it up and do it for you. 🙂

  • Stacy

    We never eat in front of the tv. Every night we sit at the table. I want to enjoy my food and family (my two favorite things). Daniel is so busy at night, and dinner is usually the only time we can all be together.

    I think he should compromise. On the nights his shows are on, sit on the couch. Or, set one day each week and stick to it.

  • Janae

    We have always done dinner as a family at the table unless it is a pizza night or something like that then we make it an event by turning on a movie to watch. For me dinners at the table talking as a family are important. It teaches table manners, conversation, mindful eating, and enjoying each others company. It doesn’t have to be every night, but I would suggest you and Ronan eating at the table and talking, you expressing your love for family dinners and hopefully Brock will come around.