Recently my two-year-old called me out on my own house rules. “No cell phones at the dinner table, Mommy,” he said. I’m not sure if I was more embarrassed or proud. My family knows that mealtimes to me are sacred. We sit together, cell phones are put away (I swear it was just that one time) and between gulps, slurps and chomps, we talk about our days. I call myself the Family Dietitian and I’ve worked with many families on helping to create a healthier home environment. I know these mealtime habits are not the norm in every household. People are busy, mealtimes can be times of battle and families aren’t always taking this time to connect.
Turn now to the Passover Seder. Two nights where families not only sit together, but they sit there willingly for sometimes up to two hours (or maybe less depending on how many restless children are present). People are talking and engaging with one another. The only battle even discussed is that between Pharaoh and the Jews. Stories are being told and kids are being asked to partake in the festivities. We are forced to recline! We commemorate our freedom by relaxing and enjoying the experience of coming together in a Jewish household. We celebrate with our close friends and family a rich tradition of blessings, storytelling, and food that our hosts have spent weeks preparing. As for our cell phones, they remain away, or at least very well hidden. They surface only to take pictures and videos of the adorable look on our kid’s faces when they find the afikoman.
So why is this night different from all other nights? Of course there is the obvious answer here. Similar to any other Jewish holiday there is an expectation that as Jews we will come together with our friends and family and celebrate the stories and traditions of our ancestors. We know what the night entails and we look forward to sharing the experience with our own children as our parents did with us. The difference, however, is that on this night during the Passover Seder, everyone makes the family mealtime their number one priority. We forget about our inbox flooded with e-mails, the overflowing laundry baskets and the chaos of just trying to get everything done. We make a valiant effort to engage our children in the mealtime experience while we ourselves relax and just breathe.
For the eight nights of Passover and beyond I encourage you to learn from the Seder and make family mealtimes a priority in your home. It may not be for two hours and it may not be everyday, but as often as possible, take the time to eat with your family. Talk about your days or keep a conversation jar filled with fun questions. Put your cell phones away from the table so your children know you are present. If a mealtime battle ensues, do your best to just breathe. Put aside the chaos of your day and focus on good food, pleasant conversation, and the true blessing of being able to spend time with the people you love most.
Andrea Potashnick is the Family Dietitian and has worked with over a thousand families on making positive lifestyle changes to create a healthier home environment. Her favorite time of day is sitting down for mealtimes with her family. You can learn more about her and the services she provides at www.feedingfamiliesnutrition.