I was reminded of the importance of this today when Izzy and I were discussing our dinner plans. We were on our way back from visiting Great-Grandpa and it was getting late. Izzy was tired and longing for home. I said that we could either go straight home and he could have a quick dinner (without me or Papa) or we could go out together. At first he said he wanted to go home but when he realized he wouldn't be eating with us he said, " I don't want to go home and eat something all by myself. I would rather eat with you and Papa." Silly me, of course he would..and he ended up calming down so that he could join us for dinner.
Izzy has been fortunate because I have always eaten with him, even if it has meant that I have two dinners (not good for my waist but did wonders for his palate). Even when he was tiny I would feed him and then have a small plate to sample along with him. For me it was second nature to partake with him. Yet for so many families, this is a foreign concept.
In many families, the children are fed first and put to bed before the adults eat. In this scenario, the children lose out on so many levels. Children learn about the pleasures of the table from their parents (or caregivers). When they eat alone they are not exposed to the entire social aspect of the table.
I have been shocked of late when I see the food crimes that some parents admit to..
While in Paris, we were dining at a communal table. Seated next to us was a couple with an 18 month old toddler. They arrived at the table with the toddler in a stroller. They did not take the child out and said they only needed two seats. I asked if the child would be eating and the mom said, "Il a mange avant, autrement ca sera la revolution." (He ate beforehand, otherwise there would be a revolution.") This truly made no sense to me and I told her that with Izzy it would have been the contrary. If I took him out he of course would want to join in on the eating.. Then the woman said that she never ate with him anyway so it wouldn't make a difference. Alot she knew..The child begged to get out of the stroller so she stuffed some bread into his mouth to quiet him. Then, about half way into their meal, he insisted more loudly and clearly wanted some food. Finally she gave in and let the poor child out.
In another family, the child has consistently been fed separately, rarely if ever partaking in a family dinner. His parents have recently come to their senses and are trying to do better. I am looking forward to hearing about their upcoming family meals.
Granted it is not always easy to gather for a family meal and early bedtimes do make it even more difficult. But try to eat with your children as often as possible so that they may learn to eat what you love and enjoy being at the table too.