My son and I have gotten into the habit of eating dinner at the coffee table in our living room while watching a movie. He sits on the left side, I on the right, and sometimes he picks a movie I don’t really feel like watching so I place my laptop in front of me on the table and look at Pinterest or Facebook or Reddit as a distraction.
Yesterday I decided to make a change. I decided to use the dining room table, which I had just recently (finally!) gotten cleared of all the miscellaneous bills and art projects and Tupperware that didn’t have a home. I told T about my decision, and he was upset at first.
“But then we can’t watch a movie.”
He didn’t really whine. It was just a statement, which I told him I understood. But, I explained, I’d like us to actually use the table we have for more than just storage. So I filled our plates with chicken and rice, poured us each a glass of orange juice, and we sat on either end of the small table.
Even though we’d already had our post-school-and-work discussion about ‘what did you do today?’ on the drive home, T picked up the conversation and started talking about a game he and some friends had played during their outdoor time. He told me how they were learning about ‘sight words’, and he was able to explain to me what they are. I found myself eating slower than usual, enjoying the view of his bright smile, and I made the decision that we would do this more often.
I’ve read a lot of articles that have been telling me to do exactly this. They extoll the virtues of the family dinner – sitting at the table together – and I always just kind of shrugged it aside. We were the type of people to sit side-by-side while doing something we both enjoy (watching movies). We didn’t need the typical family dinner time. We were doing just fine.
The truth is, we were doing just fine. I still enjoy dinner in front of a good movie, occasionally chatting with my son about the movie we’re watching, or hearing him praise my cooking skills. But last night’s dinner opened my eyes and made me see the bonus of sitting at the table to eat, without distractions.
We’ll still enjoy some of our meals sitting at the coffee table, but I plan on having a lot more at the dinner table. I wondered how my son would deal with that, since he is more resistant to changes in routine than I am. I wondered if I should make a big deal about it, or just ease us into more dinners at the table. Then he said something that made me realize I didn’t have to wonder at all how he’d respond.
“I like having dinner here, mom. I like that we get to talk more.”