The Dining Room Forum
Everyone has their traditions, whether it was passed down through the family or recently created. We brought this up on our podcast this past week and it got me thinking about my own family. The primary one I could think of was the existence of our Dining Room table. To be clear, this table is not magic, nor is it made out of some exotic material. It was never even owned by someone famous or infamous, it was originally owned by my grandparents and has been owned by my parents since around 1996.
To understand the importance of this table you have to put yourself into a particular mindset with the following list. Clear your mind of all prior notions of what a table is and just visualize it and feel it through these descriptions:
1.) It has always been the largest piece of furniture we owned. A fixture of the house, couldn’t go from one room to the other without seeing it or even bumping into it. With the leaves put in it was over 7ft long (seemed like longer when I was little) and 3 ½ feet wide, cherry if my memory serves correctly.
2.) Dinner was ALWAYS at the dinner table. The only exceptions being:
a. You are at school/work.
b. You are sick in bed.
c. There are so many people around the table there is nowhere for you to sit.
3.) When Dinner was going on the Television is OFF.
It wasn’t just a place to eat food, it was an essential part to the communication in our family. Dinner wasn’t just that we all sat there at ate together, we talked, we laughed, we had arguments, we had discussions. We talked about everything, the table was the Family Forum. Politics, Religion, School, and those ever important “talks” in the life of a growing young person such as alcohol, violence, sex and death.
I look around and I see two things coinciding, and maybe its just me who looks at it this way but here it goes: I notice almost everyone in my generation who has emotional disconnections within there family also don’t eat around a dinner table. They don’t have that place to convene and communicate with their family. They are all rushing around pushing fast food and microwavable “meals” into their faces. Don’t get me wrong, its not a necessity of relationships to have a dinner table experience like I did growing up. All I’m saying is it helps bring us all together for at least a few hours every day.
This is something I want to continue with my kids, the Family Forum. A central location where we all get together at the end of the day and talk about everything and anything. I want my kids to grow up as I did, always talking with my family and knowing exactly who they are inside and out. Some people say that you “can’t be friends with your kid, you gotta just be a parent or else they’ll loose respect for you” and I think that’s a bunch of bull. I respect my parents more than anything BECAUSE we are friends. I feel no distance at all between us and that is what has kept us a strong family for so long, through so much. And when I was younger I still had the understanding that THEY were the authority in the house and their word was “law” but that’s because we talked about it. We had quite a few “discussions” about their credentials as parents and heads of household. Every decision they made for the family was up for discussion, because it was a family matter.
I can’t wait for my little girl to grow up and be my friend. I can just imagine the adventures we can go on, even when age starts to catch up with me. So many parents who kept emotional distance between them and their kids end up saying as they grow older “I wish I would have spent more time with them.” No doubt, every single second I don’t spend with my little girl feels like a second wasted. I miss her constantly when she’s not around, so no matter what, I will always wish that I’d have spent more time with her. However, one day I want to make that transition from being more of a father to being more of a friend, and in that way she’ll not distance herself too far.
In the end, the life she leads will be hers to choose, and the relationship she has with her mother and I will change and form between now and then. As it is with me and my parents, I wish for my child to venture into the world with all its excitement, danger, fear, and wonder. And when she does, I always want her to keep us close to her heart, and know that no matter what happens, she will always have two of the best friends a person could ask for.