“I remember Sunday afternoons from my youth,” said a friend one day as we were chatting. “It was a wonderful time of relaxing and sharing. After church, my mom and dad, all my aunts, uncles and cousins would meet over to my grandmother’s house. We’d share an amazing meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and usually some other kind of vegetable, fresh bread and lemonade or tea to drink.
“It was a grand time for adults to catch up and the kids played. The older fellas would play a game of checkers and some of the teen boys would even get involved in a game of chess. The teen girls would help in the kitchen till the meal was done. Course every family brought something to share so Grandma didn’t have all the cooking to do. Then the girls would go off and listen to music or share stories between themselves.
“We would all have dessert of some kind later. There was always plenty of that; pies or a cake or cookies. Once in a while in the summer we’d all get together and make homemade ice cream. Now there’s a treat! It was a special time; a time for families. We don’t do that anymore,” she said sadly. “There doesn’t seem to be time for it anymore and some of the family has moved so far away, there’s no way we can get together on a Sunday afternoon. Even trying to schedule an “event” is difficult with so many different schedules. Everybody’s just busy.”
In many, if not most households, I believe sitting down to a meal with everyone present, is a rare occurrence, and not just on Sunday afternoons! There was a time in our home when seven of us would gather around the table for dinner. Of course, that was when the children were young. As they became teenagers holding jobs and being involved in extracurricular activities, those “meal moments” became more and more rare. They’ve grown up now and have children of their own. I, too, miss that time.
As I watch my children with their children, I see they struggle with those precious “meal moments” more than we did when they were growing up. I think it gets worse with every generation. We’ve become a people wrapped up in getting ahead, being involved in other kinds of goals, or sports events, not to mention the electronics which steal precious time from the “art of conversation” as our young people are so glued to their messages, they can’t even separate themselves from them for one half hour at the dinner table. Sometimes it’s a matter of just surviving, which requires odd hours of working just to make ends meet. But I wonder what this kind of breakdown does to family structure. Do you find yourself really working at trying to “keep it all together” yet watch relationships slide further apart?
Research indicates the implications of the family breakdown, goes beyond just mealtime. It has eroded family activities in general, discussion times and even celebrations. Contact is declining between parents and children, which adds stress to relationships and vital emotional anchors, as children watch their family units deteriorate through divorce.
Is meal time challenging, with attendance sporadic at best, as you try to create an atmosphere of family? Do you see this crumbling of traditions affecting your family in other ways? Do you miss family time? What can be done about it? Share the kinds of traditions you grew up with, but realize your family seldom or never does.