RULE #24: Eat Dinner as a family
My father traveled a great deal when I was young, but when he was in town we always ate dinner as a family. I don’t recall many of the meals but I can fondly remember hundreds of the conversations. Sometimes my parents would quiz me on the World Capitals or some sort of trivia, which often deteriorated rapidly to a game of “Stump the Dad”. My father never lacked an answer to a question and generally answered with such certainty that you too would believe the Capital of Switzerland was Zurich, until you could find an encyclopedia to prove him wrong. And even after that definitive proof was presented he would argue that we were using a 1968 edition of the Britannia and it changed in early 1969, he would say this so convincingly that even now I’m not certain.
I don’t think he would have been as effective in his arguements today with everyone armed with an internet rifle at hand , but I am certain that his arguements would be sound reasonable and his bluff would still fool you most of the time.
These exchanges at the table remain with me more clearly than any trip, event or milestone- they were truly fun.
I believe that these discussions caused me to develop a strong sense of identity and worth, I knew I had a voice and my parents helped me find it. OK, I’ll say it because I know you are thinking it, I also know it helped me develop my own version of b-s that has aided me in everything from dating to business sales. I think I would do fairly well convincing a randomly selected group of people that Zurich was the capital of Switzerland as well. If it weren’t for this important skill Bobbi would have become bored with me and never married me, it is the lost art of conversation. ( or B-s)
There is something magical that happend in the dialog that occurs at the dinner table. The converstaions tells everyone that you have your own thoughts, and the forum of a friendly family helps reinforce those the feelings of worth.
When you get in the habit of sharing your accomplishments, discovery and sometimes pain with your family your existence becomes much more than just being there, you are transcended to being fully engaged in life.
I know my habit of going around the table and asking each of you “what one thing exciting happened to you today”, truly annoys you at times. I’m really trying to let you understand that your existence matters- that you were here and we care about what happened. This may sound silly to you right now, but many people go through life with the sadness of thinking what they did during the day didn’t really matter. I can’t fix that for others. but at least the kingdom of the Hill house we are going to know that a least something you did that day mattered to someone.
I know there were many times when I or Bobbi asked what happen to you, you were not interested in sharing anything. In those times we talked about what you studied in science or even what you eat at lunch. It really didn’t matter what did matter was you. Your voice counted.
As you grow older and start your own families and own traditions I ask you to consider this tradition. Our lives were hetic and could only do the complete family dinner 4 or 5 times a week, but I don’t regret one late dinner waiting for someone from sports, work or school. What I do regret is every missed opportunity I had to do this as a family. Of all the things we have done as a family I can think of none that are as meaningful or impactful each of us. It is a tradition worth preserving.
Even when we went on cruises or family vacations the dinners we would have on the trips were the most important, they were the moments that made the times special.
As a culture we are drifting every year towards less and less personal communication. ( see future rule #144: Don’t break up by text). It is too easy to hide behind a TV, IPhone or IPad and reduce interpersonal communications to a series of witty texts written with lightening fast thumb speed.
Often in our family discussions the political debates would rage on at polar opposites of the political spectrum, with very little common ground of opinion. But the forum of discussion allowed us to understand that we can see things very differently in the world but still see clearly the love for each other as part of the family. I know Matthew will never love W and I will never value Obama, but we respect each other more because we listened to each other, often at the family dinner table.
Follow the rule and make family dinner a place to safely have a voice.
By the way Bern is the capital of Switzerland. (look it up)