I read an article several years ago that explained the importance of the family meal. It talked about National Merit Finalists and how the only common denominator between the ones they highlighted was that they ate dinner with their families several times a week. That was it; socio-economic status, race, sex - none of that seemed to matter, just the regular family meal.
We don't have many family meals at our house. Once Micah was born, it was just easier to put the toddler in front of the TV with food and tend to the newborn. And, unfortunately, it became a habit. Ethan would wake up, go sit on the couch with some kid show on, and eat. Or, rather, be prodded to take every little bite. "Ethan, get a bite." Ignoring. "ETHAN, get a bite." Still ignoring. "ETHAN, GET A BITE." Turn the TV off. Squealing. Getting a bite. Two minutes later, the same routine. We did this every morning for months. Finally realizing that this approach was bordering on psychotic, we put him at the table to eat. At first he screamed and cried and sat there for over an hour, refusing to eat. Breakfast is still a bit of a struggle, but lunch is great. My husband usually doesn't come home for lunch, but Ethan, Micah, and I sit at the table and eat. We have conversations. We laugh. And I think we eat more healthily because we're paying attention to our food, not to the TV, and we're closer to the kitchen, so it's easier to cut up tomatoes for Ethan to snack on or get fruit for dessert. (Or cookies. Who am I kidding?)
I worried for a little bit that we weren't getting enough family "dinners." We do them, of course, but often we don't, just because our schedules don't permit it. Then I read about the Obamas, who eat breakfast together every day, so I realized that it doesn't matter which meal it is, as long as we share as many of them together as possible. And who knows? Maybe one day we'll have a National Merit Finalist in our house!