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The dinner table

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It's dinner time... Sound familiar? It did for me as a child. Now, as I parent my 6 1/2-year-old-son, those words still echo through the neighborhood or down the hall.

Growing up, dinner was on the table every night and the four of us would sit down to our meal. It never occurred to me how hard getting dinner ready must have been for my single mother, who was raising three kids on a teacher's salary. As a single parent raising only one child, the dinner meal process can be daunting.

Despite its difficulties, my mother, in her infinite wisdom, instilled in me that the meal was important and that nothing was going to interfere--not TV, the neighbors or the telephone. Dinnertime was the one time of day when all of us had to stop, notice each other and listen. It wasn't always easy. Conversations were sometimes tense and the food did not always meet with three unique food preferences. Regardless of the obstacles, 735 Cumberland Court came to a complete halt for the dinner ritual.

By the time I entered high school, things in our household had really picked up. Schedules often became blurs in time but the one thing that didn't change was the expectation that my family would dine together. My mother was a very smart lady and fast realized that she could not control her children's agendas, so she accommodated them. She still required, or should I say mandated, that we come together on Sunday evenings to reacquaint ourselves with each other over a shared meal. Again, things were not always easy during those meals, but they happened.

Just as it was then, it is now. Regular meals happen between me and my son. We make a big deal of choosing vegetables, cutting them (he loves that he can use the ("grown up" knife) and deciding which spices smell good and then throwing them into the pan with our food.

Though my son has enormously unique food desires, and this definitely poses an obstacle, we still dine together and chat. Once I am given the standard answer of "nothing happened at school today, Mom," I move on and ask more specific questions in order to keep us talking--questions like, "If nothing happened today, then who did you play with? Did you climb the structure? How was math? Did Henry help you with your work? What else is going on in China today?"

The best way to get information from your child who can't remember a thing is to ask his/her teachers who they are closest to in class, where they tend to play when inside and outside of the classroom, and what holds their interest academically. Once you start asking your children specific questions, they just start rolling along. Another great way to get conversation going at the dinner table is to start by talking about your day. Invariably, they would rather eat liver than listen to "boring adult stuff" and will gladly begin to offer more amusing tales of their day's adventures.

On behalf of Durham's Family Day Committee we encourage you and your family to take a page out of my mother's book, make family meals an important and, when necessary, required part of every week. Dining together is one positive habit that prevents many, many negative ones. Durham's Family Day is Monday, Sept. 22. Make any meal that day your family meal.

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