Challenge Series: Eating Dinner with My Family

The Galileo Journalism staff recently embarked on individual challenges meant to push their boundaries and lead to improvement. Each challenge lasted between one to two weeks and was meant to evoke some self realization. Here are their stories.

I have always yearned to have family dinners. I want to experience the feelings of togetherness and conversation that takes place during a family dinner. I rarely have family dinner, my household is very scattered and everyone has different schedules they must follow. This has made it a challenge to have the family sit down and eat as one, with no phones and no distractions.

I took on the challenge of having family dinner together every night for a week. In my house I am living with my mother, my aunt, and my mother’s ex-boyfriend. Most nights, we each make our own meal and take it to go or to our rooms. If we eat at the table it is usually not all of us and it is very quick and unengaged. I decided to take on this challenge after realizing that family dinners are very normal and huge part of growing up. Many nights my excuse to go to my room is “I have no time, I have too much homework,” but I thought maybe these dinners would help me unplug and de-stress for a portion for of the night.

On night one, it was a challenge for me to abandon my homework for 40 minutes of family time, but once I smelled the traditional German meal I couldn’t resist. My moms ex-boyfriend, Arndt, his brother Konrad, and I sat around the table and shared mashed potatoes and bratwurst. We shared many anecdotes, as Konrad was visiting from Germany, and I began to relish the time I had away from my phone and responsibilities. I loved the feeling of sitting down and truly appreciating a meal all the while having interesting and funny conversations. I helped with clean up and went back to my room, and reflected on my feelings of togetherness and happiness that I had just shared.

Being an only child, I now realize that the family dinners have made my week much more exciting and less lonely. I also cherished the time I had unplugged and away from my work.

On the third night, my mother and aunt returned from Mexico and I informed them of my challenge. All 5 of us sat down and enjoyed a meal together. I loved the presence of everyone in the household coming together, this dinner was so lively, joyful, and brought me many warm feelings. We even reconvened afterwards for a family dessert. I could see they were enjoying it just as much as I was, which made this experience even better.

Not only was this a challenge for me, but everyone in my house. By the end of the week it no longer felt forced and everyone was eager to have another meal together. The only challenges I have faced in this process were putting away my phone and leaving my school work behind. Aside from this, I experienced a positive transformation and a closeness to my family. This has inspired me to continue doing family dinners, not as a challenge, but as a choice.

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