What­ever hap­pened to the fam­ily din­ner?

As much as for­mer The Real Housewives Of Mel­bourne star Chyka Kee­baugh loves to talk, she also likes to lis­ten. And she says the best place to do that is around the din­ner ta­ble

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Advice -

Ilove talk­ing to peo­ple. I love sit­ting in an Uber and chat­ting to the driver.

I love talk­ing to my kids’ friends about what they’re study­ing or where they are work­ing. I talk to ev­ery­body – and I prob­a­bly drive ev­ery­body up the wall, too. But I think it’s so nice to lis­ten to other peo­ple’s sto­ries. In this time of mo­bile phones, we are los­ing the abil­ity to have a con­ver­sa­tion with one an­other. Noth­ing de­presses me more than see­ing a fam­ily at a restau­rant all on their phones. I can’t help think­ing, “Why are you out for din­ner? Is it to tick off the box?” It’s like, “Yoohoo, I’m here – talk to me.”

When I was a child, I spent a lot of time with my grand­mother learn­ing to cook.

I loved mak­ing din­ner and set­ting the ta­ble. I wanted to make ev­ery meal a cel­e­bra­tion, whether it was just the fam­ily hav­ing din­ner, or if it was for an oc­ca­sion.

And the one thing I re­ally wanted when I had my own chil­dren [Francesca and BJ, now in their 20s] was to do that as well, be­cause around the din­ner ta­ble is where you find out more about each other’s lives.

I’m happy to say that my kids have al­ways loved sit­ting down and hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion, even though my daugh­ter, in par­tic­u­lar, is ob­sessed with her phone. Re­cently we were on hol­i­days to­gether, and my daugh­ter brought along an ar­ti­cle about the best 36 ques­tions to ask some­one to get to know them bet­ter. We all ended up cry­ing and laugh­ing. That was some­thing the kids in­sti­gated so when I saw them do­ing that, I thought “OK, I’ve done some­thing right.”

In the olden days, it was a given that you would eat to­gether; it’s what you did on a Sun­day af­ter church, if you went to church, or Fri­day nights was “fish and chips night”. The Ital­ians, the Greeks, the Jewish fam­i­lies on a Fri­day night – these cul­tures have got it right. They all come to­gether as a fam­ily and talk. Ev­ery­one knows ev­ery­thing that ev­ery­one is up to – and yes, it can also drive you in­sane – but there’s a sup­port sys­tem as well.

The only way to change how rare fam­ily din­ners have be­come is to make them a pri­or­ity. We need to ap­pre­ci­ate how spe­cial it is. Friends and fam­ily are very spe­cial; not ev­ery­one has them. And so when you do, you need to en­joy them and love them. Since my kids have flown the nest, it’s more im­por­tant than ever for my hus­band Bruce and I to have fun to­gether and en­joy each other’s com­pany. It’s a huge pri­or­ity for us. We met at 20 and we’ve been mar­ried 27 years. He’s my best friend. We love noth­ing more than sit­ting down, hav­ing a glass of wine and chat­ting about what’s go­ing on.

Of course we still have mas­sive fam­ily get-togethers at our house, too. It’s fun, it’s loud, it’s noisy, and ev­ery­one’s opin­ion­ated. It al­ways looks fan­tas­tic be­cause I love cre­at­ing that, but it’s cer­tainly not per­fect. Who wants per­fec­tion any­way? I like it all to be a bit mad and silly. And there doesn’t have to be a spe­cial rea­son to cel­e­brate around the din­ner ta­ble to­gether ei­ther. Bring out your good china and get out the nice servi­ettes or nap­kins for no other rea­son than you just want to – and get talk­ing.

Chyka Cel­e­brate by Chyka Kee­baugh (Hardie Grant, $40) is out on Septem­ber 1.

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