Welcome to our tenth summer book club meeting, a discussion of Raising Happiness prompted by Katy Keim of BookSnob.  We are posting Katy’s review of Raising Happiness chapter by chapter each Thursday. This book club first ran on Motherese, so you might want to check out the comments there, too, or Motherese blogger Kristen’s related posts.

Even if you aren’t reading along, we hope you’ll join the conversation.  What came to mind as you read the chapter being discussed, or Katy’s review?  You can subscribe to the comments thread for each posting and jump in.

Chapter 10: That’s One Big Important Dinner.

By Katy Keim

Christine points out how conclusive the research is about the benefits of family meals—kids that eat dinner with their families are “more emotionally stable and less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. They get better grades. They have fewer depressive symptoms…”

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And here’s the kicker. By eating together, she means five nights per week. This isn’t a part-time effort.

In her mind, it is the perfect time to come together and practice some of the things you have learned in the book. For those of you following along, here’s the review:

1. Put on your own oxygen mask first. 

2. Build a village. 

3. Expect effort, not perfection.
4. Chose gratitude, forgiveness, and optimism.

5. Raise their emotional intelligence.

6. Form happiness habits.

7. Teach self-discipline. 

8. Enjoy the present moment.

9. Rig their environment for happiness.

10. Eat dinner together.

And my favorite line of the book is when Christine mentions you can try nine of these habits during a 20 minute meal; the thought of it makes her laugh out loud. She wraps up her book with a positive view on how to make it all work, but with the self-awareness of just how hard it is to accomplish. I liked that.

Chapter 10 A-ha Moment: 3 years ago I had my twins at their annual check up at their physician. He had been a very laid back guy on almost every issue I had dealt with over the years, but at this particular physical he asked: “How many nights a week do you eat dinner together as a family?”

I don’t mean to make excuses, but the kids were still very young (aka a nightmare to eat a meal with), my husband and I were both working demanding jobs and the thought of getting commutes on track to make it all happen at a reasonable hour frankly seemed undoable.

I replied sheepishly: “Two?” Maybe that was generous. My cheeks flushed. I felt ashamed.

His entire demeanor changed. He said: “Starting immediately, every night I want you to have dinner together. Have the babysitter give them a huge snack, but every night you sit down to dinner as a family once you get home.” When I may have laughed nervously, he punctuated it all with “I am serious.”

His admonishment set us in motion and we have made it an evening ritual ever since—besides the obvious date nights out or business trips or other of life’s scheduling conflicts.

It was painful to switch gears from work to dinner preparation and to juggle hungry kids with stressed parents, but it is one habit we have really made stick. I am hoping it is one of the many memories our kids will have when they think of us all making the meal, gathering around the table and sharing our day.

While I am thankful for my doctor creating urgency to making this a family habit, I am even more thankful to Christine for showing me why it was so important.

Discussion questions:

▪ What are your family’s dinnertime rituals? Do the kids help prepare the meal or clean up??
▪ Which of the nine learnings do you think you will incorporate most frequently and easily into your evening meal?
▪ If you had to share the one biggest takeaway you had from the book, what would it be?

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