Talk Around the Dinner Table


I was having drinks with friends, solving the problems of the world (as we do), and we got to talking about life in the inner-city (as we do).  I’ve often wondered why it is that we don’t seem to be maturing very quickly, as a people.  It seems to me like one generation isn’t necessarily doing better than the last among our people.  It seems to go against the idea I got somehow that following a disaster, people begin to build. While the disaster we’re recovering from lasted a hell of a long time, we’ve also been in healing for a while.  But, it almost feels like we’ve plateaued.

One of my friends mentioned our families’ “talk around the dinner table”. That’s a figurative phrase for sure, I surmise, given how infrequently my family could be found at anybody’s dinner table.  Either way, it refers to the conversations we hold in our households.

That made a lot of sense to me, for sure. I can put myself in the position of a child taking in the discussions between the adults in her life.  I was once one, no so long ago.  Growing up in my government-subsidized home, eating our government-subsidized food, in our financial bracket, the grown-ups in my life would definitely tell it how it is.  They’d be venting about things like financial trouble, domestic violence, drugs, unlawful activity in our neighborhoods, teenage pregnancy, what family members had gone to, or come from some rehab or prison, paper-towels on the toilet paper roll, having to treat for roaches again.  Oh the sweet aroma of Potpourri Raid…

Given that perspective, I can easily see how it would be nearly impossible for a child to contrive a self-image of one capable of achievement and success. These are the things children are hearing, from their people, about their people. Their people. Themselves. How can a children have expectations of themselves higher than what they see their own people are able to achieve?

So, if the content of our commentary is hindering positive & forward growth, then the logical solution would be to have more optimistic and hopeful exchanges between us.  Anyway, we know words cast spells, and that positive talk begets positive things to talk about. So, there!

But, how can we inspire conversation that is unfamiliar, unnatural? How can a family low on cash speak of abundance? How can a parent give a child a true impression of what he is capable of, when that parent is struggling in a low-waged job?  How can we impression on him the beautiful father he can be, when his own father is falling short? How should he be certain he’ll never end up in jail when the uncles are talking about when they went, or who’s there now?

I feel it’s worth putting some effort into, for countless reasons. Not only are our words casting spells on our children, they’re casting spells on all of us – ourselves included.  To give your energy and attention to negativity in your life, except in the vain of figuring a solution, is to make it a stronger negative force in your life. Talk about problems with money, focus on problems with money. Focus on problems with money, attract problems with money.  Of course, the roaches will probably come even if you aren’t focusing on them. Sorry. Potpourri Raid for you.

We could just start small.  We could just resolve not to talk about that kind of thing around our children, and we could also (yes, we can work on 2 things at a time, I just know it) be learning how to avoid slathering ourselves in that negativity.  I’ll bet our friends would still let us vent, while we get our bearings.  Complain to our friends about the drug dealers in your neighborhood, but focus on how wonderful it is to have people you love right here in the neighborhood when you’re talking to your kids. Focus on how beautiful you feel; that your family’s home is free from negativity and nonsense.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

1 Comment

  1. I embrace family dinners and using them to talk to our children about the issues and struggles in our lives. I agree we need to “sensor” what we say. Too many times we bring our children into adult issues and that’s not good. We as elders must be aware of the seeds we plant in our youth. When my children were younger I was serious about everyone sitting down and eating together, the older and busier we all got those dinners kind of disappeared. We used to talk about their days at school, their sports and “safe” topics like that. Looking back I wish I would have opened communication about college, world news, life advancements. I think if we as adults were more aware of how much of our conversations our children were truly absorbing we would possibly change our speak. One way is to start with whats important to them and work our way to us. Try to bring up topics to help empower our children.Make sure we aren’t judging or belittling what they hold close or important. Sometimes we tend to talk over children’s heads and we need to check ourselves in that area, bring them into our conversations. Now that my children are older and darn near grown we talk about politics, schooling, advancement of our people and things of that nature. I am always shocked at how smart and knowledgeable my children are. Now if i can just get the sit down dinners back everything would be awesome.
    Great article!

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