Today, families across Kansas and throughout the country will do something American families seldom do anymore:
They’ll sit down to dinner.
In our fast-paced, overscheduled, assembly-line society, traditions such as dining together are increasingly rare events.
Studies show that only half of modern families eat together more than three times a week. Most meals last 20 minutes or less, and families often watch television while they eat.
Sad. True. But not on Thanksgiving.
Pledge to make today’s meal not just a parade of carbohydrates, but a nourishing, soul-satisfying conversation with people you love.
Out of practice? Afraid of awkward silences? Try these conversation starters from Laurie David, author of the amazing new cookbook (and salute to family togetherness), “The Family Dinner.”
• Pet Peeves and Idiosyncrasies: Ask each person to name a pet peeve and one of their idiosyncrasies. I, for example, might say that my pet peeve is people who throw trash out of their cars. (Ugh! So thoughtless!) One of my idiosyncrasies is that, when buying a magazine, I never take the first one on the shelf. (That one’s all thumbed through!) Don’t call me weird. We’re trying to have a conversation here.
• Something I Like About Myself: Self explanatory, and a great game for little ones. A variation: Say something you like about the person to your right.
• I Remember When …: Everyone completes the sentence. Decide whether it should be something about yourself (“I remember when I got into the wrong car at that rest stop in Colby.”) or another person at the table (“I remember when Jack tried to swat a fly with a baseball bat.”). It’s funny how family members can have completely different memories.
• Favorites: Write topics on small pieces of paper (movies, teachers, colors, music, desserts, TV shows, vacation destinations, etc.), fold them and place them in a bowl in the center of the table. Take turns picking one out and going around the table sharing your favorites.
• Moral Dilemmas: Discussing and debating moral dilemmas is a good way to teach kids deductive reasoning and to learn where they stand on issues, David writes. It’s also a perfect chance to insert some parental guidance on how to deal with tough decisions. Examples: Do you tell on a friend (to their parents or the school) if you know they’re doing drugs? What is the proper etiquette for cell phones and texting in restaurants? Should community service be required of everyone for one year after high school?
And here’s a list of random questions to spur conversation at your table. Sometimes one is all you need:
• Name something you’re afraid of.
• Name three places where you would never go.
• Name three things you would want to have on a deserted island.
• What is your perfect birthday dinner?
• Describe your dream vacation.
• What are you more courageous about today than you were two years ago?
• Fill in the blank: “I wish …”
• If you had free lessons for a year, what would you like to learn?
• Come up with a family motto or mission statement. For example, “Work hard, be kind,” or “Just keep swimming.”
• And of course, especially today, “I am thankful for …”
My answer to that last one: family dinners.