Late meetings at work, violin lessons, volleyball practice- all legitimate activities, which for a period of time contributed to the demise of dinner at the Bradshaw household. We prided ourselves on being a close-knit family, and yet sitting down together at the table became a ritual largely relegated to Sunday nights, and birthdays.
When college tuition became a consideration, we began to look at where are money was going. We found that much of it went to eating out. Not fun dining out, but mad dashes that provided a meal perhaps, but no community or conversation. Motivated at first by budgetary concerns, and then by the rewards we found unexpectedly at the table together, we began making family dinners a priority.
I am not going to lie: we are not at all perfect in our pursuit of family dinners together. Teen work schedules are often uncontrollable, and sometimes my husband and I are the culprits whose work takes us away in the evening. However, we really do succeed most nights now. We turn off cell phones and the television, and focus on each other.
Many nights, it takes more than one try to get everyone around the table, and sometimes the entrée is a bit tepid, but we do get there. Initially, the conversations were sometimes stilted, but we all got more comfortable. Conversations are usually equitable, but sometimes one person is extra chatty, and sometimes someone may be tired and quiet. For us, the point is that we are all together, and that it is reliable. The reliable part is key for us because it has changed how we feel about what happens during our days apart. We know that whatever triumph or disappointment may take place, later that evening we will be sitting with people that will hear us out. Sometimes the conversations are philosophical, sometimes funny and sometimes really random. Only child is left in the house now, and so the group is smaller but not much quieter. I can happily report that when the older two arrive home from college, the first question they often ask is “ Are we all home for dinner?” and they want the answer to be yes.
– Eileen Bradshaw
*Eileen is the Executive Director of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, one of the supporting organizations of Set the Table Tulsa.