Editor’s note: This post was published originally on Oct. 25, 2008, and it continues to give timeless inspiration to parents seeking connection at meal time:
When I was a new mom, and therefore full of boundless optimism and energy, I promised my family would never watch television during dinner. I swore that we would use that time to talk about our day, connect with each other over world events, get reaquainted with the people we lived with day to day.
Then I went to school, got a couple years of solid and consistent sleep deprivation under my belt, and had another child. His existence contributed to the growing sleep deficit — basically insuring that I can’t finish a thought, much less a sentence, most of the time.
It began with quasi-educational programming, followed by a discussion of said programming. We would watch “Mythbusters” and discuss the physics and science behind the tests they did, or “Survivorman” and discuss the problem-solving techniques he used. Sometimes we would watch “Dirty Jobs” and talk about the importance of a good, solid education.
Then it became whatever show we wanted, and the discussions stopped. Eventually I realized we were training our children to watch television over dinner. I would ladle out soup and hear, “What are we going to watch tonight?” from my daughter. This awoke the long, slumbering power mom who swore the TV would be relegated to an hour total each day, never during dinner. She woke up mad that I had let this family slide into it’s current state of disconnection through television.
So the other night, I made my family play rudimentary Pictionary while we ate.
It was a huge success. We all drew a picture of something, movie, book or thing and let each person guess what it was. Most of the meal was spent laughing at each other’s renderings and misunderstandings. When dinner was over, there was a small pile of “art” on the table and a sense of reconnect in the family — one we hadn’t felt in a while.
We are still exhausted and crazed, and I am transitioning from stay-at-home mom to work-from-home mom, so I am sure there will be days when we slip back into our bad TV habits. However, I am hoping we can toss in more days of board games and conversation, allowing us to reconnect with each other and be more present in each others’ lives. I am also going to encourage a return to educational television during dinner, followed by a discussion, as that allows a similar connection to occur on days when TV seems like the right answer.
I hope my decision appeases the power mom inside me. I hate to disappoint her too often. She has fantastic, if sometimes somewhat unrealistic, goals.