If you're a mother lucky enough to be asked what you want this Mother's Day, why not ask for more family meals? A bouquet of flowers will look nice on the table for a few days, but the time your family spends around that table eating together is a gift that can last forever.
I know this is true not only because I have read volumes of research on the benefits of eating as a family, but also because I have fond memories of my experience.
Memories of Childhood Meals
When I was growing up, everyone I knew ate dinner with their family every night. If I wasn't eating at my own kitchen table, I was eating at a friend's. But that didn't change anything since the dining rituals were about the same in every household.
First there was the rule about not eating anything too close to dinner because you might spoil your appetite. It didn't matter whether the food was a carrot or candy bar. That rule insured we all arrived at the table hungry enough to eat whatever had been prepared. And apparently it worked because we all ate what was served.
Then there were the dinner time chores, starting with the obligatory march into the bathroom to wash our hands. Possible jobs included setting the table or tossing the salad and pouring the milk. If you didn't do one of those you would have to clear the table, wash the dishes, or dry and put away. With the latter there was also the chance to practice your bartering skills if you wanted to go somewhere right after dinner.
Dessert was served after the dinner dishes were cleared and before they were washed because we all ate it together, around the table. Most nights it was something simple, like a cooked pudding. I remember my wrist would sometimes get singed while stirring the pudding over the gas burners. But I didn't mind because in my house, the one who stirred the pudding got to pick the flavor, and I loved butterscotch pudding.
Keeping the Tradition of Eating Together
Another great value to those regular family meals is the way they anchored our day. Nothing else was allowed to interfere with them, including homework or school clubs and sports. So like migratory birds, we found our way back to our nesting place by 5:00 PM, secure that we were expected.
I tried to carry on this tradition with my own children the best I could in the fast-paced world they grew up in. More often than not we ate breakfast together because the start of the school day was the most unifying appointment in our mutual calendars. When we couldn't all eat dinner together, a common meal was nonetheless prepared and those who were home ate it together.
So much has changed since then, there are children today who only eat with the other members of their household on holidays. That's not good. And that is why we mothers have to make it clear the best gift we could get this year for Mother's Day is more family meals. It doesn't matter who does the cooking or what's on the menu. What matters most is that we all eat together.
What are your favorite memories of childhood meals?