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Parents Make The Difference - CASAColumbia® Promotes Parental Engagement At Every Ocassion

Over the years as an ambassador for the CASAColumbia® Family Day - Be Involved, Stay Involved™, I’ve written with pride about eating dinner as a family. It’s something I’ve always done since being a child myself. Doing so makes perfect sense for the reasons I’ve previously described here on this blog. Missing from these writings was any knowledge of what it’s like to not eat dinner together and personally experiencing the consequences.

During the summer, over the course of about six weeks, three weeks before my son’s departure and three weeks afterward, we stopped eating together. My daughter ate in the living room while watching cartoons, my wife stood and scarfed down her food as soon as she finished making it, if she made it. Eating out, or on the way home in the car quickly became the norm out of convenience. None of us, except maybe our daughter, had time to sit down to eat because we were too busy getting our son ready for college. Besides, there was no place to eat. The dining room had become a makeshift mail station containing all the pertinent papers we needed to have on hand for my son’s new school, our travel arrangements there, etc. My son was out most nights with friends savoring his last days of summer. When he wasn’t out he was either in his room or in the basement with his video games and more stuff that he was packing away for school. When we came back home after dropping my son to school the excuse was the house was a complete mess. And it truly was, but I use the word excuse here to point out that there is no reason a family shouldn’t be able to at least sit together to eat.

The first few days back were tough. Our son was gone. My wife began coming in late from work every day, presumably working through her gamut of emotions. I was feeding my daughter, our remaining child at home, almost immediately after school so she was taken care of for the night. If I ate, I was grabbing a hodgepodge of scraps from the fridge and putting. I didn’t have much of an appetite myself. More than likely it was my own physiological response to missing my son’s presence.

During this same time period and a little bit prior to it, my daughter began to get sassy. She’s only seven and she’s classified as a gifted student, but this didn’t excuse what she was doing. Going toe-to-toe with her mother and I, vehemently debating us everywhere and on every point and direction we gave her and flat out disobeying us when she felt like it. She’s always been a vocal child and I don’t believe in curbing her ability to express herself but she was clearly acting out and only at home, as her teacher only had glowing things to share about her first few weeks at school. Punishments were being brought down on her as fast as falling raindrops. She was grounded. She was losing dolls. She lost electronic privileges. And I hated every second of it.

It was about two weeks ago when I was looking at our makeshift post-office in our dining room and told myself, “Enough is enough.” Looking at it was making me crazy and I was tired of eating all over the house and tired of cleaning up the messes that naturally happen while eating in places where none of us should have been eating. It took me past midnight on a Friday, but the effort was worth it. My table was clean.

The following Monday, when my daughter came down for breakfast I had her place set for her at the table, complete with a napkin (not a paper towel) and my food as well. She looked surprised, but then sat with me, blessed her food and began eating. It was a short moment as we had to get ready to go to school but it was long enough for us to talk and get a download from each other on how we were feeling at the time. As time allows, at least four or five days out of the week I’ve gotten us back on track and just yesterday I realized that although my daughter remains outspoken and occasionally has moments where she needs to be reminded to speak respectfully, just as she is spoken to, her brash disobedience has dwindled to the what should be expected from a second grader. Although the argument can be made that we talk and spend time together all day long, I’m inclined to believe the reinstatement of our daily forum for eating and discussion – dinner – has helped considerably with the recent change.

As often as you can, whenever you can, get together as a family. Whether it’s at the dinner table, putting down that phone or tablet and dedicating time to really connect, or creating and honoring a standing outing on your family calendar. No wrong can come from being together, speaking together and listening to one another as a family.

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