When writing about meal planning, grocery budgets or posting recipes, I've often included my opinion regarding the importance of regular family meal times. I've also mentioned that numerous studies on family health and relationships tout the positive benefits of consistent family meal times.
However, there is an ugly truth regarding my own family's meal times. Although we regularly and consistently eat together around our dining table, often times 3 meals per day, embarrassingly, our conversations are lacking, at best. The awful reality is that sometimes our entire family eats in silence except for the occasional, "please pass ________", or, most awful, "Thank you, that was good", before one excuses themselves while others are still eating! On the occasions when conversation is present at meal time, it is often an overview of our family's "to do" lists or a lecture of correction given by dad. These topics do not evoke a pleasurable environment. And, to have family members hurriedly gobbling up their food and quickly exiting the dining table while others are still eating is a horrendous breach of etiquette - at least where I come from.
Instead of espousing the reasons and pointing fingers at others who, from my own perspective, have set a very poor example of this negative meal time environment; I am choosing to take some steps in an attempt to change this and bring pleasant, encouraging, thought provoking, interesting and inquisitive conversation to our family dining table. Which brings the focus to the new addition in our dining table décor.
Although I'd like my home's décor to be creative, warm and inviting, it usually turns out being more clean and functional. Our daily dining table centerpiece is a simple stainless steel lazy Susan that holds the salt & pepper mills, a bottle of hot sauce and a small container of toothpicks. Today, I added a pint sized, decorated mason jar filled with strips of paper. The paper strips contain various conversation starters, such as, "What was the best part of your day?", "If you had the attention of the entire world for 30 seconds, what would you say?" or "What do you think you could have done better today?". These are only a very small sampling of the many conversation starters I found scattered across the internet today.
With Mr.B out of town and the littles at church activities and rodeo practice, I will be alone this evening but I look forward to each of my family members taking turns drawing a conversation topic from the jar. I hope the conversations will be funny, interesting, encouraging. Most of all, I hope those who rush through their meal in an effort to return to the television or other vices, will linger for a short while and enjoy some time with their family.
Does your family eat meals together on a consistent basis? Have you ever used conversation starters? If so, how did they work out for your family? I would love for you to share your experiences in the comments section. I could really use all the help I can get.