This past winter break, I held high hopes for my family vacation. This would be the time that my brother and I got along, my mother would be open to opinions not similar to her own and my father would listen attentively to topics beyond the military, work and cars. With my parents moved out of state and my brother going to community college in a different city, all four of us hadn’t been together for about two years. Surely, the time and distance had led us to be more thankful for each other?
Turns out time and distance can do no such miracle.
On the first day, as my brother and I slewed cuss words at one one another over an electrical outlet to parents unwilling to compromise until voices were slightly edged with annoyance, we interchanged who was at each other’s throats. Our rare family meals didn’t seem to end without at least one conflict brewing unsaid. But, it could be felt.
You know those family-oriented sitcoms or cartoons? Where there are always scenes with all the family members sitting and eating a meal together. I want that more than anything.
Numerous families from the bland Brady Bunch to the ever-cheerful Huxtables were able to put differences aside to spend scenes eating meals at a picturesque table, exchanging brief questions like “How was school?” or “Did you hear about the stock trade?” Even Courage and Eustace came together to eat Muriel’s vinegar-covered cooking in “Courage the Cowardly Dog.”
They made it a practice to spend time together over a meal — no matter what cliched conflict was begrudging them that episode.
As someone who didn’t grow up with it, I can’t stress how important a simple dinner can go toward bonding with family. Building deep relationships with others can’t merely rely on being related or, as I came to learn, time and distance apart. We have to spend time with each other to do so. Though mealtime conversations may seem dull (cause what’s more dull than being asked how school was for the hundredth time), it demonstrates a commitment to be around one another — that you wish to engage and converse with your family members. Beyond that, family meals are one of the easiest ways to bond as it does not require large sums of cash or early planning.
Despite the ease of family dinners, my parents never did so, opting to pay more mind to comedy shows or computerized solitaire. Later, my brother and I did the same by befriending the Internet, while we ate in silence — our attentions glued to screens instead of each other. When we did eat out together, we weren’t used to being around each other and could only talk about ourselves, demonstrating how self-absorbed we were and how little we knew each other.
Perhaps, if we ate dinner together more often or did anything else to spend time together, then it would be easier to be near each other or communicate.
It’s going to take time and effort to bond with my family — a priority that should have started long ago. If anything, writing this article has taught me one lesson: to not allow this to happen if I start my own family. For now, I’m willing to play charades or continue awkward dinners, because despite the tension between us, I still love my family.