It’s November and time to think about what we will make for that important meal. And for some families in Tulsa, we’re not just talking about the highly anticipated Thanksgiving Feast. Set the Table Tulsa is challenging local families to sit down at the dinner table four times a week, every week, all month long. In a busy and overly connected world, it seems like a radical idea: family bonding, without the television, the computer or the cell phone as the center of our attention. However, when we are able to incorporate this simple form of family time into our routines, it should be a cause of ongoing thanksgiving.
And let’s face it, if finding time for a sit down dinner was easy, it wouldn’t be such a rare event. It comes down to time, a precious commodity in our busy world, and if we want to spend time wisely we need to budget it just like we do our money. Set the Table Tulsa has provided a space for participants to blog about their experiences as they change the way they view mealtime. Vanesa Mares is one of the writers documenting how this experience is impacting her life. She is already keeping up with a busy schedule, between caring for her children, one of whom is enrolled in CAP’s early childhood program, and developing her own skills through CAP’s CareerAdvance® program. Yet she and her family are making the time to eat together. In her posts she discusses her family’s process of setting a meal plan and trying to disconnect from the cell phone, which is something to which we can all relate. Turning the phone to silent and setting it aside during dinner is one suggestion I am challenging myself to adopt after reading her posts, and I suspect I’ll be thankful for thirty minutes of peace and quiet.
The broader impacts that family meals have on children is something experts have been studying for some time. I am reminded of an article I read years ago in TIME magazine, The Magic of the Family Meal. It reported that kids who regularly eat dinner with their parents are less likely to smoke, do drugs, or develop depression. They are also more likely to succeed in school and even eat their vegetables. So it seems the upside of all this family bonding goes far beyond just finding out how everyone’s day went, although that is an important part of it. As the author of the article alludes to, there is just something magical about setting around a table with the people you love. The benefits it can lead to down the road are just one more thing to be thankful for.
Global Gardens, and their partners, are presenting this challenge to Tulsans because of the positive impacts mealtimes can have on families. Too many times, breakfast, lunch and dinner are just pit stops in a race to the finish as we scramble to get everyone fed in between the work whistle, sports, errands, homework and bedtime. However, they have the potential to be so much more. Setting aside time at each family meal to celebrate achievements, applaud good works or spread good news, no matter the day or the month, takes the warm feelings we have around the holidays and stretches them out over an entire year. When families come together like this, it becomes clear that Thanksgiving Dinners are not confined to the fourth Thursday in November.
Check out all of the posts on Set the Table Tulsa’s blog.
You can read more about this challenge at Tulsa Kids Magazine, one of the partners of Set the Table Tulsa.