For the first time ever, we spent our wedding anniversary dinner with our children. We didn’t even think to celebrate without them. Why? Because they have learned a great deal about the art of conversation and dining from Europeans. It is an art our parents instilled in us at a young age, but that we lost track of as our calendars overflowed.
Prior to our anniversary dinner, we were talking to a resort director about the concept of babysitting. He has two grown children and he and his wife still take care of their respective parents. He kept asking questions about babysitting and finally he said bewildered, “So you pay NOT to be with your children?”
We thought a great deal about his comment. It is fascinating that different cultures have such different ideas about family and children and aging parents.
I remember waiting on the front steps for babysitters to arrive and giving them instructions as I ran past them, handing off babies and toddlers. What has changed? For one, I didn’t want to sit in a McDonald’s or Chuck E Cheese to dine with my husband while the kids played.
It is easy to go out with the entire family in many parts of Europe, especially Italy. It is expected. Generations go to lunch, dinner or parties. There are play structures, fields, toys, puppet shows, magic shows, anything shows, that allow families to spend time eating four or five courses over two to three hours almost every day!
The other major difference is that meal time is about conversation.
Our children will now sit for over an hour and talk at the dinner table. We noticed this change after about six months in Italy. They learned the art of conversation from many European friends and we know our children better because of the meals we share.
In France, they learned not to snack. When they arrived to the table, they were hungry and would sit, eat and talk. In Spain, they learned how to enjoy various performances while mostly snacking, tapas style. In Italy they have mastered the art of slowing down at meal time and savoring each course.
There are plenty of adults who will pinch their cheeks and try to scoop them up as they play with other kids between courses. They all return joyfully when the next course is ready. Adults have time together while kids are having fun and the essence of the “family restaurant” finally makes sense to me. It is served family style, in a family friendly place, to the entire family!
After our incredible anniversary dinner, we had gelato at a store that also sold handmade leather shoes. That’s Amore!