There is nothing like the tradition of sitting down to an Italian table. And nothing is more Italian than sitting around a table sharing a meal and stories about your day. Growing up in an Italian family, I have had the privilege to create many special memories with my family and friends around the dinner table. For me, the consistency and tradition of dinner with my family each week has left a lasting impression for me on the importance of family meals. Ask any of my childhood friends and they’ll say “yeah, the Caputo’s always ate dinner late!” There’s good reason for that. My parents wanted to make sure we always ate together as a family at the end of each day [whenever possible].
Sunday Dinner: THE Family Meal
What has me reflecting and a little emotional about family meals right now? It was the death of my Aunt Nina. “She’s with my parents, and every night is a Sunday dinner.” I heard my Dad echo these words multiple times over the past few weeks. We lost his sister- my Aunt Nina- Sunday, January 25th. She was a mother, grandmother, sister, cousin, and most importantly, a dear friend [especially to me]. There aren’t many memories of Sunday dinner that do not include my Aunt Nina. Her constant teasing and nagging my Dad, her “what’s the latest gossip, Katie?” questions, or just the honest interest she took in the day to day of my life- which more often than not included who I was “crushing on” or what I had done to get myself grounded that week. Sunday dinner has changed over the years. But one thing remains for my family: the tradition of getting together with family on Sunday for a meal together.
The Importance of Family Meals for Kids
Family meals are about much more than just eating food together. Long-standing research shows that enjoying more meals as a family offers numerous health benefits- physical, mental, and emotional- to children. The benefits of family mealtime go beyond what’s being served at the table. Eating and talking together can help children be happier, healthier, and more successful at school. This will hopefully make life easier for you, the parent. Now I’m not saying I was a straight A student and didn’t indulge on some not-so-healthy foods growing up, but the childhood memories I have of family dinner’s, specifically Sunday dinner, are irreplaceable.
Our Family Meals Routine
When Joey was a baby it was hard for us to make dinner our family meal. His bedtime wasn’t very consistent and when we finally got him into a regular bedtime routine he went to bed much earlier than when we wanted to eat dinner. But we made it work— even if Joey had already eaten dinner he sat at the table with us! Or we’d make it a point to have breakfast or lunch together. Now that Joey is a toddler [oh and we have a baby] dinner is our most consistent meal together. Ted and I have made it a goal to aim for 4 family dinners each week, including weekends. Because of work schedules (and often missed naps which result in earlier bedtimes), every night isn’t feasible. Even if we aren’t eating dinner together, I make sure to sit and have a snack with Joey while he eats his dinner. And baby Anthony is always right there with us in his bouncy chair [if he’s awake].
Whether it’s Sunday dinner, a Tuesday breakfast, or a Friday lunch, I encourage you to set aside time for at least one special meal each week with your family or a friend. One seems reasonable enough, right? And yes, that means TV off and cell phones away. You’re making memories that will last a lifetime- and continue beyond.