Much Ado About Dinner Conversation

(I wrote this post two years ago and never published it! Oops!)

I’ve become convinced over the last several years that technology is bad for dinner conversation. And I’m not just talking social media, I’m talking the more basic forms such as cell phones and texting. It used to be that when something interesting happened during my day, I’d just catalog it to tell my husband at dinner time. I’d rarely call him unless it was something earth-shaking. (You know, like the time a bird was loose in the house. Or the time our dog mauled the neighbor’s dog. Or the time I found a bunch of baby bats in the front yard. Or the time the baby fell down the stairs.) I actually have a very distinct memory of a date night back when our oldest girls were small when I specifically didn’t bring up anything interesting on our drive to go out to dinner because I wanted to make absolute sure that we’d have plenty to talk about over our dinner. Alone. With no kids to distract us.

Because of advances in technology, I can text or message my hubby any time during the day. Dog eats a poopy diaper? He knows within minutes. Baby does something adorable? I can send him a picture or video. Older kids driving me nuts? Take it to the next level with a call to Daddy. I mean, seriously, what is there left to tell when he gets home for dinner? I’ve already told him everything in real time! Sometimes I try to hold things back for dinner conversation, but you know what happens then? I stinking forget by the time dinner rolls around. Mommy brain, my friends. Not awesome.

OH! And I’ll tell you what else is bad for dinner conversation? Home schooling. I mean, seriously, y’all: I’ve been with my kids all the livelong day.  I know every single thing they have said or done. I know what they learned, I know who they played with, what fights they got into, what books they read. Which is great! But also bad for dinner conversation. Sure, they can tell Daddy about it, but then they have the irritation of Mommy sitting right there correcting them if they can’t recall what a “hummock” is after we spent the afternoon hiking 2.3 miles on a hummocks trail. (I’m working on this. Really.)

I think dinner conversation is pretty darn important. I have great memories of dinner time when I was growing up. Dinner time is when I learned that my dad and brother shared the exact same corny sense of humor, and that while my sister and I didn’t have much in common, we could match each other in snark and sass any day of the week. As we got to be teenagers and everybody seemed to be running in different directions, I missed dinnertime with my family. So, we make it a point around here to always eat dinner together. There is rarely a night when we do not all sit down, pray together, and eat a meal together. Dinner is family time. I don’t want family time to be us sitting there, staring at each other, listening to each other chew. That’s just awful! Mealtime is the absolute best time to connect as a family, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. There’s, like, research and stuff that proves this. Feel free to Google that.

Owing to the fact that my oldest girls are 11 and 9, the term “appropriate dinner conversation” is well-known in these parts. Alas, dinner conversation at our house does not always go the way I wish it would. We have loud burps that are followed by parental admonitions to excuse oneself. They often decide THIS is a good time to talk about how the dog pooped on the sidewalk rather than the grass, or how the neighbor boy won’t stop peeing in the bushes. It’s a learning process. But when I feel like conversation is at a standstill (or just needs to be steered a bit), I have back-up. Thank you, Pinterest! It’s as simple as following this link, printing up the conversation starters, sticking them in a receptacle of some sort (we keep ours in a jar), and letting the kids draw one out to start a conversation. VOILA! Dinner conversation is saved!

What do you do to make meal time a memorable family time?

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