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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Family time around the dinner table is important

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Family time is important and there's no better place for the family to gather than around the kitchen table. The following article says it well.

The Family

Dinner Table

I cut out my wedding dress at the same place where I memorized my spelling words. It was in that same place that I ate Archway cookies every day after school. And it was there that I prepared for my SAT. My husband-to-be was grilled mercilessly in that same spot. Much of what I have learned and hold dear is inextricably intertwined with the kitchen table. This 4-by-6 scratched and worn piece of furniture was a small physical part of my home. Yet as I look back on what we did there, I realize that it was a key to the life I now have.

Each night during my youth it was the kitchen table where I was held accountable for the day's events. "When is the next report card?"

"Did you clean up the mess in the basement?"

"Did you practice your piano today?"

But that kitchen table was not just a source of fear, it was my security blanket. No matter how rough the day's taunting had been and no matter how discouraged I was over long division, the kitchen table and its adult caretakers were there every night to comfort and support.

Regardless of the day's schedule or demands, the kitchen table brought us all back together for roll call at 6 p.m. every night.

And following my dismal task of doing dishes at a time when automatic dishwashers were country club novelties, I returned to the kitchen table to sweat bullets over homework. I read "Dick, Jan, and Spot" stories aloud to my father, who then did his "homework" while I wrote and rewrote the math tables I carry in my mind even today.

Each morning that table sent me off fed and duly inspected for clean fingernails and pressed Bobbie Brooks. No one left that table without a review of the day's events and assigned chores. That kitchen table nurtured. It was my constancy amid the insecurities of crooked teeth, more freckles than skin, and geography bees on state capitals.

Years have gone by since my days of Black Watch plaid and white anklets. Life has given me more challenges, joy and love than I could have fathomed as my legs shook beneath that kitchen table when faced with parental inquiries. When I return to my parents' home to visit, I find myself lingering after breakfast to enjoy their company around the kitchen table. After dinner, the dishes wait as my father and I discuss everything from the Jackie Onassis estate auction to potty-training.

And then shortly after we restore the kitchen to its spotless pre-dinner state, my children return. We sit together, three generations, as Breyers ice cream and Hershey's syrup melt, drip and stick to new tiny faces at that old table.

Perhaps it is in the genes, or perhaps it is that kitchen table -- that magical, simple place where I learned responsibility and felt love and security.

As I struggle each night to get dinner on my kitchen table and round up my children from the four corners of our neighborhood, I wonder why I just don't send them to their rooms with a chicken pot pie and Wheel of Fortune. I don't because I am giving them the gift of the kitchen table.

A recent survey revealed that only half of our teenagers eat dinner on a regular basis with their parents. Last year my daughter said she could only find one other student in her homeroom who had dinner each night at the kitchen table with her family. They are both honor students. The other kids, my daughter explained, "make something in the microwave and then head to their rooms to watch TV." They have no company, no questions -- just Wheel of Fortune and the grades to show for it. How sad that not all children's lives are touched by the miracle of childhood. There's something about a kitchen table.

Source: Marianne Jennings, "Kitchen Table Vital to Family Life," Deseret News, Feb. 9, 1997, in Covey, S. R. (1997). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. New York: Golden Books.

Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Southwind Extension District. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.

Ann Ludlum
FCS Agent, Southwind District
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Southwind District -- Fort Scott office. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.