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Growing up in a household where daily family dinners were the norm, I assumed it was also the normal dinner situation for other families. While we would have to wait until 8 or 9 o’clock until my dad got home from work, my mom always made it a point to make sure our family always ate dinner together. But some of my friends never had time for family dinner because everyone in their family was too busy with work, school, and extra curricular activities. Richard Wilk discourages family dinners in his essay, “Power of the Table,” because the family dinner could become an arena for family conflict, but I believe that family dinners are important. Without those daily or weekly family dinners, when would the family unit ever really gather together on a normal basis?  The family dinner provides the time and space for a family to be together in today’s busy world.

Wilk argues that, in reality, the family dinner is not the perfect gathering of love and harmony that it is traditionally thought to be. He says that family dinners create conflict between children and their parents. Parents get annoyed at their children for misbehaving at the dinner table or refusing to eat what was prepared. Tension arises between parents and children because the dinner table becomes a place for parents to exercise their authority. Wilk explains how family dinners can become a more stressful than positive environment for the family.

While I understand and validate his argument, I think that it is necessary to keep promoting family dinners. Teenagers today are so busy and overworked from school activities, college applications, sports, and other extracurricular activities that family time is always pushed aside. Social media outlets like facebook and twitter also distract teenagers from time that could be spent with their parents and siblings. The “family dinner” is a necessary space to help preserve existing relationships and repair broken ones. Without this set time, family time would only be reserved for special occasions instead of a daily or weekly occurrence. In my opinion, if financially viable, it is important for families to continue having/try to start having family dinners.

Questions for Discussion:

Q1: Do you think family dinners are helpful or hurtful?

Q2: How prevalent do you believe the gendered roles in the family dinner still are?

Q3: Do you think family dinners would increase if teenagers had less schoolwork and activities or do you think they are just an excuse to forfeit family time?

 

4 Responses to “Family Dinners= Family Time”

  1. kirho says:

    I definitely think that family dinners being helpful or hurtful really depend on the family itself and the other activities and interactions they have. My family has always eaten every dinner together and it’s been great for us. We were always a very busy family with my parents working late and my sister and I having a lot of homework and extracurriculars. We never really took that many family vacations or trips so dinner was our time together, whether there was tension or not between members. I thought this was normal until a majority of my friends told me they ate dinner whenever they felt like it or had the time. However, that by no means meant that their family was any less close than mine. They always spent the weekends doing things or took family vacations and found time for each other. There are other ways to spend time with your family, and with everyone being so busy, sometimes dinners aren’t the best option. If everyone feels pressured to eat together, it won’t be a pleasant dinner anyway.

  2. melzakin says:

    I too think that family dinners are more helpful than hurtful. I believe that if family dinners are incorporated into a routine starting from a young age, and the family makes a positive commitment to these times, that they are very beneficial. The family dinner is a time to unwind, and provides a designated time for the family to be a cohesive unit and support one another.

    At this point in society, I do not think that gendered roles play as much of a part in the family dinner as they used to. While it is my Mom who does the cooking in my household, this is mainly due to the fact that my Dad is a terrible cook. Also, I have many friends whose Father is the main cook of the household, or whose parents split the cooking duties. Especially in our present day society where many women and men have full-time occupations, it is necessary for both parents (and other members of the family) to share the responsibility. In my family in particular, everyone is regarded as an equal individual at the table. The conversation flows casually, and everyone is responsible for helping out with some part of the meal.

  3. Julia Liss says:

    I believe family dinners are helpful even if there are conflicts involved. As the youngest member of my family with two adult brothers, it’s become increasingly rare that my family all spends time together, since we all live apart. We are past the stage in our lives where we have little arguments over who gets the last bite of cake or our parents have to yell at us to stop misbehaving. Weird as it sounds, it was comforting to see my one of my brothers get angry and bend my other brother’s forks for trying to eat one of his raviolis without asking. Normally they are oddly formal with each other because they don’t see each other very often. Feeling comfortable calling each other out is a symbol of being close in my opinion. Also because my family loves food, family dinners are pretty much the only activity we can do where everyone will be happy. I always look forward to getting to see my older brothers and sister-in-law during family dinners.

  4. jlvan says:

    To play devil’s advocate, I’ll play to Wilk’s argument. I think that family dinners in too much of a formulaic, templated style can be robotic and superficial arenas for family interaction. That more traditional everyone-goes-around-and-tells-what-they-learned-today style is not necessarily personal or intimate at all. In my own experience, with parts of the family that are less closely acquainted, these kinds of meals that feign closeness don’t necessarily bring people together and can actually be a source of intimidation or formality. Families that are already close have family dinners that represent that closeness and reuniting. However, for parts of the family that are less close, “family dinners” can also be forced and uncomfortable.

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