Bonding around the dining table
Rochelle Keane, Lifestyle Writer
Dinner time - you know that time when a family sits around a dining table while eating, sharing laughs or catching up? And no, we are not talking about Christmas dinner. Most Jamaican households can identify with a time gone by (for most of us it was only on Sundays) that they sat down as a family and enjoyed a meal.
However, as things and times have changed, so has this family tradition. Families now seem to have less time to sit down and utilise the dinner table.
But Outlook found the Bryan family who do not believe that the dining room and table is only to be used on special occasions, but on a daily basis. Claudette Bryan told us, "it may not be possible to be used for the three meals of the day, but should be used for at least one meal daily so fellowship can take place in a home, because it brings semblance, order and class into a home. Dinner time is very, very important to my family, because this is where we get to talk about matters and issues that concern all of us. It also provides the opportunity for training as it relates to etiquette, spiritual matters, and major family decisions."
Bryan, with children in their late 20s, is well aware of the various factors that may prevent a family from enjoying a meal together, but she notes, "it is a requirement for my family to be present for dinner every day. However, it may not be possible because of times, but the general rule is that we all eat together."
For the Jaggon family, the dining table is seen as an icon - where broken relations are mended, where there is time for laughter and tears, the planning of family vacations, and even financial situations are discussed. Over the years, the family has grown with the addition of sons, daughters and beautiful grandchildren. For the parents, Norman and Winnifred, it has meant that they now have to work with the schedule of their grown children. According to Winnifred, "We have to just work with each other's schedule, and demand time together outside of the milestones in each other's lives. But Christmas and Sundays, whether all my children are around or not, are necessary because that is when we have all the most fun together."
For Winnifred, family goes beyond shared DNA, "family is not just those who are related to me by blood, but those who are there for me in the good times and the bad because of the affection and care shared. It is the acceptance of each other for who they are, where there is no hatred or judgement."
She notes that, with most of her children all over the Caribbean, whenever there is a milestone in any of their lives, she would arrange with them to have one of their family dinners and her role would be to organise and plan for this event to make it memorable - even if it means that as parents they take a vacation and go to visit with them.
Claudette Bryan's advice is that families who practise this tradition should encourage others to do it by inviting them over, so that they can see how enjoyable it is, and suggesting things that may convince them to start this tradition.
If this is not a tradition in your home, start one beginning with a special occasion like a good report card. See how much fun you will have as a family and, before long, it will become a sought-after event. Let it be that extra bonding time that, as a family, you have to chat, laugh at each other, discuss serious matters, and even cry about the sad times.