Family Meals: Do they matter?

There was an advert on the television recently that made me feel sad. It was from Bisto and featured lots of children making a deal with their parents, with promises of good behaviour, in exchange for just ONE meal a week, eaten as a family with proper gravy.

Obviously the gravy is important, although if you think Bisto is ‘proper gravy’ then you are missing out, but the implication is that just one meal a week as a family would be a vast improvement.

My sadness was compounded this morning while listening to Radio 4’s Today Programme. There was a light-hearted discussion about whether we still eat in front of the TV and I was expecting the usual set up of two commentators with opposing views. However, not only did both the contributors seem to be defending meals in front of the TV, whilst laughing at the quaint notion of sitting at a table, as a family to eat, the presenter did too.

Does nobody eat with their family, around a table any longer and does it matter? In my opinion I think it does matter and even if there isn’t evidence supporting it’s benefits it is a nice thing to do.

Eating as a family is something that my Dad, in particular, was very keen on, so when we were at his house we would almost always eat together. I can vividly remember pestering him to let me watch TV whilst eating and rarely being allowed to, however I can also remember staying at the table chatting, even after the meal was over.

I’ve inherited his fussiness over eating at the table and ever since Mini Mck starting weaning we have eaten with him, most nights. It meant some adjustment on our part, suddenly eating at 5:30 was a little odd, but it was something I felt was important. I want Mini Mck to know that mealtimes are not an inconvenience and something he does alone, but something we do together, including the cooking of it and the clearing up.

Of course, it’s not something that can be done everyday. I realise that as Mini Mck gets older and has siblings they will have things to do and busy lives that will impact on everyone eating together. There is also the special treat element of watching a film and eating a pizza, which let’s face it a perfect TV dinner. Mckdaddy and I usually eat after Mini Mck has gone to bed once a week and this is often something easy and indulgent and we often have it in front of the television. In fact, I even think this is a bit of a shame, as eating with a toddler isn’t conducive to a relaxed conversation and when we do decide to have our alone meal at the table it is a really enjoyable experience, a time to chat with no interruptions.

All of these exceptions are fine, but that is what I believe they should be; exceptions. Eating as a family should be the norm, shouldn’t it?

Restore my faith, please tell me that lots of you still hold family meals dear and that your kids don’t need to bribe and persuade you to sit and eat ONE meal a week with them.

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