If I could change one thing for 2019 in my families daily routine, it would be the pain around mealtime culture. Six o’clock is one of the most painful times of my day. I am exhausted, my kids are over it and the table sitting in the middle of my kitchen becomes our battlefield.
Mealtime culture brings with it a whole heap of triggers from my childhood. By accident, we stumbled upon something that was genius in our mealtime family peace, and it is simply this.
We bought a roundtable. A gold moment of revelation; when everyone sits equally around the table.
One of the things that has profoundly changed my 2018, is sitting at our roundtable and surrendering to the pain that I have found waiting there. I find it difficult to relax at the dinner table and enjoy my meals with the intensity of that time of day with the age of our children. I eat as fast as possible to skip over the drama that is sure to unfold, and I retreat to the sink.
How about your family?
Is mealtime peaceful or is it a time of all-out war!
Four Thoughts That Have Helped Me Shift Meal Time Culture In My Family
HIGH POINTS AND LOW POINTS
Conversation and food go hand in hand don’t they?
Yes, when friends sit around with a glass of wine, or a board game in front of us. Full of cheer, beauty and maybe a big ham at Christmas with a pot of mustard on the side.
But what about the times when sleep is in our eyes, as dawn breaks a new day?
I don’t want to speak to anyone or the times when my husband comes home after a twelve hour shift and I have spent the afternoon trying desperately to negotiate between my children. This year we brought a simple question to our roundtable that has helped conversation flow in the tenure of our little team.
The question is this;
What was a high-point from your day today?
Then often on the back of this question comes the divulging of a low point as well. Teaching our children to talk at the dinner table has brought with it a focus and peace in our family each afternoon. It has also become a simple communication tool between a husband and wife, who are desperately trying to juggle all there responsibilities in a career balancing act.
EATING FROM NATIONS OF THE WORLD
Mealtimes often brings with it, emotions around dislikes, outbursts of frustration and fear. Recent studies show that the culture of a families dinner table directly impacts teenage obesity and dietary habits. It is a problematic part of family life, especially with young children and different dietary needs — the difficulty surrounding families with budgets, nutrition and understanding the complexity of the changing nature of information around healthy eating.
We have started to introduce countries of the world in the way we eat as a family. With music, different tastes and kinds of foods and distracted our children with facts and stories from these different and diverse cultures.
We want our children to explore the global diversity that is found across mealtime cultures. Finding ways to introduce new tastes and experiences though can be really tough. It brings interest outside of the food on the table and helps them find simple pleasures in trying something new.
SITTING AT THE TABLE
The last thing I feel like doing often is sitting at the table and facing the people who see me at my best and worst. I am definitely not that bright and sparky morning person. It takes me a few coffees or hours to find my words and thoughts clearly.
I have been really trying to change the culture that I knew of sitting in front of the television to eat, or eating takeaway in the car. Finding ways to sit at the table, to breathe, to talk and find rhythm has been a huge shift in culture this year in our meal time routine.
How often do you sit at your table and eat mindfully?
THE WORD DIET HAS BEEN BANNED IN OUR HOUSE
The word diet has been banned in our house. I was put on my first diet when I was about eight years of age and pretty much every year since I have embarked on some kind of eating restriction program. The problem is it works sometimes, but mostly it has become an up and down regime of cycles of food addiction and complexity that has never helped. I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking that food is her enemy or her comfort. The language we have chosen for our house is that food is fuel. That is it. Food is not a reward. Food is not a punishment. Food is not comfort. It is fuel. Therefore food is not good or bad, it is just an every day food or a sometimes food. Removing the emotion and shame based dialogues around this part of our everyday life. I know friends and family who start a new diet every Monday and then come back to a place again of failure and reinforcing the shame based patterns.
The word diet has been banned in our house because we want our children to grow up with a healthy sense of how to live a life that honours the body they have been given.
How do you react to the word diet?
Take the time to talk about the culture of mealtimes in your family. I have created a family vision book tool this year, that you can download and start conversations like this with your family and partner.
Are there some simple ways that you can make a small change next year?
This simple tool will help you define and articulate the culture in your family home.