Family Dinners, Changing

Wisps of melancholy embrace this house. Tara, our eldest, returned to college this morning, after the Christmas break.   This sensation is a familiar one, the unbalance after the five of us have been together for some time and one of us is…gone…vamoose…. and that incomplete feeling returns. We sense it in the days before her departure, as some pull away and go silent,  others embrace every free moment.

It might be the realization that after today, the next time we will all be together will not be four months. Sad, but true. It’s a scene I know is being mirrored across our neighborhood and around the country. I often wonder if other families feel this separation even before it happens, how they respond.

Since our kids were young we have always tried to enjoy at least 4 nights of family dinners each week. That can be difficult, with work-sports-theatre-homework-travel-friends-life. But oftentimes it’s the only time we are all together uninterrupted for a conversation, to plan our upcoming schedules, a vacations, discussed politics, argued about religion and current events, laughed, and often welcome a friend or two who join us. We often joke that we could make a comedy TV show about our family dinners.

This last week home for Tara was unusual, since it was finals for our other 2 children, coupled with illness running rampant through the house.   So while we cooked and ate together, it was not the usual meals with all 5 chairs filled, lively conversation. But we tried.

I know that creative, calming, curious, time is important to all of us. I am especially aware of what these dinner have meant to bring and keep us together when one of the comments this morning was “bummer that we didn’t get to have family dinner for the last couple nights. ”

I know that as the days go on, the mood lifts, changes as we embrace the new energy in our house. While we miss Tara, we know that she is thriving at a school she loves when she isn’t with us. And this is the passage of life. And soon enough, we will be only 3 at the table. The fact that we all want to enjoy our family dinner time together says as parents—and children—we must be doing at least something right.



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