Passing the Plate

The other night, the husband was taking me out to dinner, which meant I wasn’t cooking. Not that the kids aren’t worth it, but let’s be honest: when I cook, the two purposes are to fill bellies and to make the man feel loved and taken care of. So when he takes me out, the kids get drive-thru.

Normal, right? Too normal, if you ask me. I was astounded at the fast-food line at 6 p.m. on a Friday. It was amazing to see how many people do that for dinner.

The sad fact is, these days, only about 25 percent of our meals are prepared at home. Even if it’s eaten at home, most of it is picked up as takeout.

There are lots of reasons for this. We’re busy. Lots of times, both parents work. Or maybe only one works outside the home, but the other one is always on the go—school, sports, music—wherever the kids have to be. Who has time to cook, and as long as we’re fed, isn’t takeout OK?

Here’s the truth. Dinner together as a family is one of the binding threads of our society. Don’t underestimate it. Even if you eat out as a family, it’s not the same. Each person orders an individual meal, and if someone wants a bite, it’s a favor. There’s no sharing.

There is something about sharing a meal—every aspect of that meal—that binds us together. Passing the same platter around the table so that everyone can have some of the same thing. Pouring yourself more to drink and filling the glass of the person next to you. Asking someone if they wanted more tomatoes on their serving of salad. Knowing who has to have real butter for their roll. You are serving each other without even realizing it. On top of that, the kids are learning manners that go beyond throwing their wrappers away.

My challenge to you is to pay attention to a couple of things. First, when you sit down to the dinner table, notice the conversations that develop. You may find that this is a prime opportunity to see what’s going on inside your kids’ heads and in their lives. Two, pay attention to how many times a week you sit down with your entire family to dinner, and strive to do it a little more.

- Sara

Sara Wigington, Author