I was reading Imperfect's post about family and dinner last night as I was attempting to wind down from an incredibly long day (yes, after 5.5 hours of running after 2-year olds, and changing diapers, I could barely keep my eyes open), and it made me really think about what dinner's have meant to me over the years.
For a long time when I was young, my family ate dinner together most nights. My dad worked night shift at times, so there were days he could not join us, but for the most part, for my early years, every night was spent at the kitchen table eating something my mom had cooked. My mom did not really like to cook...everything she did was very basic, but what mattered was that we were at the dinner table together.
As I grew up, and became more involved in skating, we didn't have as many family dinners. Sometimes my mom was working, sometimes my dad. We often ate out (every Tuesday was McDonald's night), or dinner was whatever we made when we got home. When I first started watching what I was eating, I began to cook some dinners, and I do remember a few nights spent together with my experiments...but that was few and far between. For a long time also, because of my eating disorder, meals were a scary time for me. They were not something to be enjoyed. They resulted in fears of gaining weight and calorie counting... Looking back now, I feel we really missed out on some good family times. I don't think I realized this as a teenager...really, I was more concerned about the things that were going on in my life to worry about sitting down and eating with my parents. And I don't think this was anyone's fault. We were all struggling through our own busy schedules and troubles in life...but I feel our family would have been much stronger and tighter, if we would have taken an hour out of our days to catch up with each other and have a REAL conversation. Because meals are the perfect opportunity for that...and it is so hard to have a real conversation at any other point during the day (especially for a busy family).
When I went to college, I ate with my boyfriend, or ate alone in my room. The dining halls were gross, and home-cooked meals were few and far between. :) I did look forward to the conversations my boyfriend and I would have during those times.
When I finally moved in to my own apartment, I was so excited to finally have a kitchen where I could cook...but I was in grad school, and that equaled no time to cook. Well...I cooked a bit. But not much. And I had no one to eat it with really.
I thought when I graduated and started a job, I'd have more time. But what I hated was that I was cooking for just me. What was the point of making a meal when I'd have a ton of leftovers I'd never eat?
When B and I started dating, we tried to eat as many meals together as possible. We made sure to at least eat one meal together, regardless of whether he was working or I was working (we had that luxury since we worked at the same place). I really came to look forward to those meals together. It was our time. We would laugh together, talk with each other, and review our days. It was time for conversation that we might not have gotten otherwise. I started to enjoy eating. I saw mealtime as a happy time, rather then just a time that I had to put something in my stomach. I started to plan for our meals...when before, I would just snack on something as I was working or going from one place to the next. With B, I found my love of food and meal time again.
When we moved in to our new house, and I left my job, we were both able to be home for dinner. If I come home first, I try to cook, and vice versa. Some nights though, we cook together. We make a concerted effort to stop whatever we are doing at dinner time and sit at our small kitchen table and eat together. Some times we don't need to have a conversation, and we will just sit and enjoy the food. Other days, when we haven't had much time to talk during the day, it is our time to catch up and just sit together. I truly cherish this time together. I believe that we both do. I know when one of us cannot be home for dinner because of another commitment, it feels weird and as if something is off. Breakfast and lunch can be spent apart (although often we try to find ways to eat together for lunch), but dinner is to be spent together. It is a bonding time and a time when we get to make something together and enjoy it together.
I also love it because I can FINALLY experiment and make the meals I've been dying to make for so long. It truly is a goal of mine to be a good cook...and be able to make some fantastic meals. If I have kids, I want to cook and bake with them. I really think that meals provide such an amazing opportunity to bond and spend quality time together.
Our table is small right now...as we are a small family and just starting out. But I hope over the years as we begin to establish ourselves, that we will begin hosting big family dinners. I love big family dinners...where there is so much conversation and laughter around the table... And if our family grows, that we will continue to keep the meaning of eating together and always take that time together. When else do you get such a perfect time to give your undivided attention to those you love?