Have Fun, Eat, and…What?!
My family and I just returned from a wonderful visit with my wife’s sister and her husband’s family. While there, we enjoyed dinner with three families. Between these three families, we have 6 lovely daughters ranging in age from sophomores in high school to freshman in college. Add three sets of parents and one grandmother to those six young ladies and you have a meal with 13 people around the table. Some would say that number unlucky, but we would disagree. We had a lovely meal. As we enjoyed our meal together, I realized how fortunate we are to have the opportunity for this kind of extended family experience. Everyone was smiling, laughing, and talking. At one point during the preparations, one of our daughters realized we had no bread…a catastrophe! But, 6 creative teen women soon came up with a solution and we enjoyed crescent rolls with dinner. In fact, everyone contributed to the meal—some cooked the main dish, others brought side dishes, and others brought dessert. Some helped prepare the meal and some helped clean up afterward. While eating dessert we enjoyed several rounds of the game “telephone”—one person whispers a message into the ear of the person next to them. That person whispers it to the next person and so on until it returns to the person who first stated the message. As we laughed about how the message had changed from the beginning to the end of “telephone,” I remembered a study I had read (I know, who thinks about studies in the midst of fun…go figure). Anyway, researchers were exploring where children learned “rare words.” The researchers listed 2,000 rare words and then searched within families to discover where children learn those 2,000 rare words. Only 143 were learned through reading. But, over a thousand (that’s over half) of the words were learned at family mealtimes. Family conversations enhance vocabulary! Sounds like a great headline. As I contemplated that little tidbit of how children learn vocabulary, I realized just how much our family members learned during our wonderful time together. We learned how to cooperate with one another in completing a goal (getting dinner on the table and then cleared off after we ate). We learned how to problem solve (so we could sit in the right places, enjoy crescent rolls, and pass all the food to everyone present). We learned how to interact in a social setting. We learned how to listen carefully, how to join a conversation, and how to excuse ourselves politely. We also learned how to show gratitude and appreciation for gifts given…or simple politeness when someone passes us the gravy. Most important, all this learning was done in a spirit of camaraderie and fun! If you want to learn all these things in your family…and instill each of these values in your children…enjoy meals together as often as you can. Have fun, eat, and become better people all around!