I grew up in a family where the TV was a way to bring us all together. We’d have movie marathons on the weekends, had a TV in more than one room of the house, and we’d even watch it during supper.
As an adult, I find myself still using the TV as a tool to fill voids. TV helps us pass time. It helps break the silence. The TV distracts the kids when I’m doing my housework. And, the worst offender, TV entertains us when we have the chance to sit down and enjoy a supper together.
All that changed the faithful, unassuming evening I was invited to supper at my sister’s house.
She has a mixed family of seven with busy teens that move between different households and their many extracurricular commitments. On the few nights a month when they’re all together, they make a point to sit down and have family mealtime.
On my first time enjoying supper with their whole family, I first took note of the no-screens rule they had. Not just the TV, but no tablets or phones allowed at the supper table. I was happy to oblige, and slightly surprised my sister and her husband weren’t getting any pushback from the kids about that.
Then, when we were all seated and the food was passed around family-style, the table talk began. We started by sharing the best and worst thing that happened during our day. We each shared the highs and lows one by one around the table.
And once we were done with that, we played a game.
The first supper I attended, we played I-Spy. Typing it out now, I-Spy doesn’t seem special or unique. It wasn’t about the game, though. It was about the fact that adults and children alike were interacting. Being social. Talking. Sharing. Laughing. There was an openness about the group of us looking around the room for the “something red” in camaraderie.
The second time I attended one of my sister’s family suppers, we played a game of my suggestion. We played what I call the alphabet game. “A my name is Arthur, I live in Ankeny, and I sell afghans.” You repeat the same pattern down the whole alphabet.
These two experiences with my sister and her family were enough for me to reflect.
I never really thought twice about having a movie on while the kids and I ate supper. It never occurred to me that the precious time together offered a huge opportunity for connection and communication.
Even though my son is only 10 years old and my daughter is almost five years old, they’re both engaged in sports in the evenings and on weekends. There are nights when we don’t get to sit down and eat together and nights when I might not even cook supper. We spend a few nights a week eating on the go.
This makes those nights when we’re allowed the luxury of a family meal even more valuable.
And now, the kids and I play games and talk about our days during those supper times. We turn off the TV, put down the screens, and I turn my phone to silent. We may only be sitting together for a half-hour, but that’s a half-hour of uninterrupted socialization.
Not only do we do this at home, but we do it at restaurants.
I don’t even bring tablets outside the house with me anymore, so having these “waiting” games, these table-talk games in my back pocket has been a bit of a lifesaver.
And even though there’s an age and comprehension difference between my kids, we find a way to cater every game to both of them. Whether its an easier game like I-Spy or a pattern game like Queen Anne, they’re both getting entertainment, cooperation, and a bit of competitiveness out of whatever we’re playing.
These games have also sparked a new connection between my kids. They don’t always get along. They don’t always want to play with one another. But during these suppers, these games have brought them together even if only in short bursts and on those occasional days we get a sit-down meal together.
For some more wonderful game ideas from one of our other Cedar Rapids Moms, check out this link.
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