Enjoying a meal as a family


September is National Family Meals Month, I just discovered, designed to encourage families to share meals at home together. This promotion asks that families commit to eating just one more meal together each week.

There is lots of research that shows the benefits of having family meals together, I read. In addition to healthier weights and eating habits, higher grades and self-esteem, children who have regular meals with their families are shown to exhibit less risky behaviors–all the things that every parent wants for their children.

Of course, thanks to our demanding, fast-paced and often over-scheduled lives, fixing a meal at home and finding a time when everyone in the family is available to enjoy it and each other can end up being as challenging as understanding a new cell phone. It’s not easy juggling jobs, activities, and volunteer commitments, and too often it comes at the expense of family mealtimes at home. That causes more stress.

And yet, according to what I read, it’s well worth the effort because in addition to benefiting the health and wellness of children and adolescents, sharing mealtimes at home makes families stronger–creating a positive impact on our communities and our nation as a whole.

All by doing something as easy as buying some groceries at the store to prepare and serve a meal.

Every month was family meals month when I was growing up. I’m not sure there was such a thing as fast food then and even if we there was, living on a farm that some would consider to be in the middle of nowhere didn’t exactly make it easy to dash out to pick up some burgers and fries for supper.

Instead, my parents, my siblings, and I all put our feet under the table three times a day, as my dad put it. Food came from the kitchen. That’s where I learned to cook and what it meant to put together a balanced meal and then eat it. There weren’t any picky eaters in my family, or maybe we just knew better than to even suggest that what was being served wasn’t out favorite. Of course, it helped that my mom’s approach was that she didn’t see the point in fixing food that nobody liked.

I don’t remember what we talked about at suppertime, but I do know that I liked being there around the big oak table with my family. It felt right. We didn’t know it then, but we were strengthening our family.

And here I just thought we were eating supper together.