Why We Gave Up Family Dinners and Switched to Tea

We’re supposed to sit at the table for dinner. Everyone knows this. But in our house, we rarely manage. Maybe it’s because my husband and I remember family dinners of our youths as tense affairs. Maybe it’s that we just don’t have time to clear the dining table of projects more than once a month. Or that our children won’t stay at the table for more than five minutes anyway. Or that conversation lags as we try to shovel in our meals before a baby cries. (All of the above.)

After trying and failing several family dinner improvement plans, we did what conscientious parents are not supposed to do. We gave up on dinner. Once the stress was off, I found myself looking forward to time with the family in late afternoons. A new pattern emerged when we evicted dinner guilt. We started having family tea.

Even if the children wreak havoc through the house, the tea table is a spot of order and graciousness. This is the table in process of being laid for tea.

Even if the children wreak havoc through the house, the tea table is a spot of order and graciousness. This is the table in process of being laid for tea.

My husband and I have always loved sharing tea together, but we didn’t always make a fuss over it. That is, until I started feeding the kids at the train table in the living room and putting the kettle on when the sun starts sinking. That china that is too much bother for a dinner serving is just fine for a bowl of nuts and a plate of cheese and crackers. Our posh serving pieces that have scarcely seen the light since our oldest was born are the perfect frames for cookies and baked treats. Unlike dinner, which just didn’t work for us, tea brings out our best.

The children sometimes take tea with us around the table. More often, they run up to the tea table and glory in the permissiveness of tea treats. We parents get a hot beverage boost and have the chance to finish a few sentences while the cracker tray empties into little bellies. We all let loose, calm down, relax, and reorient at the tea table. Which, if my dinner related guilt reminds me correctly, was supposed to be the point of family dinners.

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