The Curries

The Curries
Keith and Patricia

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Magic of the Family Meal

This week we’re going to share highlights of an article with you. This article, The Magic of the Family Meal, was originally in TIME Magazine, June 4, 2006. The full text can be found here:

What an important time of day….sharing a meal together as a family. A time of connecting, of touching one another’s lives. Some of our most treasured times are around the table. Like Randy Strom says…”If you really want to get to know us, eat a meal with us.”

What has your experience been? How do you feel about this? How have you seen it work? Share your thoughts. Share your experiences. Share your story.

The Magic of the Family Meal TIME Magazine

Close your eyes and picture Family Dinner. June Cleaver is in an apron and pearls, Ward in a sweater and tie. The napkins are linen, the children are scrubbed, steam rises from the green-bean casserole, and even the dog listens intently to what is being said. This is where the tribe comes to transmit wisdom, embed expectations, confess, conspire, forgive, repair. The idealized version is as close to a regular worship service, with its litanies and lessons and blessings, as a family gets outside a sanctuary.

......Just because we are sitting together doesn't mean we have anything to say: children bicker and fidget and daydream; parents stew over the remains of the day. Often the richest conversations, the moments of genuine intimacy, take place somewhere else, in the car, say, on the way back from soccer at dusk, when the low light and lack of eye contact allow secrets to surface.

Yet for all that, there is something about a shared meal--not some holiday blowout, not once in a while but regularly, reliably--that anchors a family even on nights when the food is fast and the talk cheap and everyone has someplace else they'd rather be. And on those evenings when the mood is right and the family lingers, caught up in an idea or an argument explored in a shared safe place where no one is stupid or shy or ashamed, you get a glimpse of the power of this habit and why social scientists say such communion acts as a kind of vaccine, protecting kids from all manner of harm.

In fact, it's the experts in adolescent development who wax most emphatic about the value of family meals, for it's in the teenage years that this daily investment pays some of its biggest dividends. Studies show that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use. "If it were just about food, we would squirt it into their mouths with a tube," says Robin Fox, an anthropologist who teaches at Rutgers University in New Jersey, about the mysterious way that family dinner engraves our souls. "A meal is about civilizing children. It's about teaching them to be a member of their culture."

The most probing study of family eating patterns was published last year by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University and reflects nearly a decade's worth of data gathering. The researchers found essentially that family dinner gets better with practice; the less often a family eats together, the worse the experience is likely to be, the less healthy the food and the more meager the talk.

….The older that kids are, the more they may need this protected time together, but the less likely they are to get it. …

…..The food-court mentality--Johnny eats a burrito, Dad has a burger, and Mom picks pasta--comes at a cost. Little humans often resist new tastes; they need some nudging away from the salt and fat and toward the fruits and fiber. A study in the Archives of Family Medicine found that more family meals tends to mean less soda and fried food and far more fruits and vegetables.

Beyond promoting balance and variety in kids' diets, meals together send the message that citizenship in a family entails certain standards beyond individual whims. This is where a family builds its identity and culture. Legends are passed down, jokes rendered, eventually the wider world examined through the lens of a family's values. In addition, younger kids pick up vocabulary and a sense of how conversation is structured. They hear how a problem is solved, learn to listen to other people's concerns and respect their tastes. "A meal is about sharing," says Doherty. "I see this trend where parents are preparing different meals for each kid, and it takes away from that. The sharing is the compromise. Not everyone gets their ideal menu every night."

….Research on family meals does not explore whether it makes a difference if dinner is with two parents or one or even whether the meal needs to be dinner. For families whose schedules make evenings together a challenge, breakfast or lunch may have the same value. So pull up some chairs. Lose the TV. Let the phone go unanswered. And see where the moment takes you.

There it is…some thoughts, some research, some ideas. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

SPIRIT TRAINING: Use every opportunity

Last week Patricia and I were cleaning out our closet, and we ran across a box that contained some odds and ends. A ragged blue folder entitled “Shorty’s Tales” lay just under the lid across the assortment of doodads in the box. Shorty was one of my dad’s nicknames; the full version went like this: Bill William Shorty Carnie Carnelious Currie. My sister-in-law had put this collection of stories together one day just before Dad had died. She made a copy for each of us. It reminded me of how Dad used his stories to entertain us and sometimes to make a point. He was an example of someone who knew how to seize a teachable moment.

Shorty (Dad) loved to teach practical things. He knew how to do so many things and he loved to pass them on to us. He insisted on good personal hygiene; he taught us to brush our teeth with a homemade baking soda paste. Once when we were hunting, we came across a black gum tree. He stopped, broke off a small twig, and feathered the end of it as I watched. Then he took it and brushed his teeth with it. He laughed, broke another twig and handed it to me. There we stood in the middle of the woods brushing our teeth with black gum twigs; and I was thinking that my dad was a little weird. The funny thing is that I don’t remember whether or not we bagged a trophy that day, but I remember brushing my teeth with a black gum twig. He simply saw the black gum tree and seized the opportunity to teach me something.

Shorty only had an eighth grade education, but he loved to teach. He was always teaching us some little something. He taught us to whittle, to yodel, to plant a garden, to dig post holes, and more. And almost always in the middle of our activities, he would tell a story. Sometimes it would entertain, and we would laugh out loud. Of course, he laughed the loudest. At other times his stories had a point; and before we knew it, he had taught us something important. He didn’t have a twenty-year plan; but whenever the opportunity presented itself, he was intentional about teaching us something about living well.

We visited one of my older cousins James one day, and I noticed that his horse Major had only one eye. When I asked about it, James laughed and said that he hit it with a 2 x 4. My dad didn’t laugh. On the way home, he took the opportunity to instruct. He gave me the full story. Sometimes Major was stubborn, and many times James was hot-tempered. It wasn’t a good mix. When Major would not pull the plow one day, James picked up the nearest thing he could find and hit Major across the head, intending to kill him. Instead, he just knocked his eye out. Later he was sorry, but the damage had been done. Dad pulled two lessons out of that episode: 1) self-control and 2) kindness to animals. And he seasoned his comments that day with a good dose of his own emotion, a righteous anger. I got the point.

In the fast pace of this new millennium, perhaps we need to be reminded to slow down a little and take the time to pass on some lessons and stories to our own children.

Seize the teachable moment

Be intentional

Season your “life lessons” with your own genuine emotion

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

DISCIPLINE: Be there to interpret

Often when Keith and I are teaching parenting seminars, we have a Q and A time in between sessions or at the end. Very frequently, a question like this comes up:

“Our daughter needed correction, so I sent her to her room. My husband brought her back out of her room saying that ‘sending her to her room was not a good punishment.’ What do you think? Is that a good way to discipline?”

This question is like the quilting on a down comforter; it’s right on top, so it’s what we see. But there are many layers underneath it. Fabric, batting, and the down itself give substance to the comforter; even so, instruction, limits, procedures, and restoration are some of the layers in our relationship with our children.

This week, we will answer the question. Over the next couple of weeks we will try to clarify the layers that lie hidden underneath.

Primarily, one of the main jobs of parents is that we interpret life for our children. We help them figure out what life means, how to respond to it, what the next step is. Sending one’s child away means that he has to figure things out for himself; but he is too immature to do that. He needs input. The child is hurting. He has done wrong. He has damaged his relationship with his parents. He feels guilt. He feels your displeasure. He is vulnerable. This is the wrong time for a child to be alone. He needs you.

In isolation, the battleground of his mind becomes a playground for our enemy Satan. A child in his immaturity has no defense against Satan’s lies. Instead of this being a productive time, it becomes a destructive time.

In the book of Proverbs, the Lord says, “A child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” Understanding what goes on in the isolation, we see what the outcome is: it does not produce good fruit. He’s not repentant, sweet.

If you are there with him, to work through the issues, to interpret, it can be a productive time. Forgiveness can be asked for and given. Punishment can be explained.

Our experience has been to keep the child with us, walk him through the process (even if it is painful), and let there be clear restoration in the relationship. This provides a measure of security for the child. There is a clear beginning and ending, and the child has the opportunity to demonstrate a right attitude by walking it out correctly; and with that comes your pleasure.

Hebrews says that discipline yields the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” That is our measuring stick for our discipline; and our children can’t get there by themselves.

Next week we will look at another layer. Email us if you have a question; we would love to hear from you. Know that ”the Father Himself loves you.” You are doing the most important work!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Sometimes, when one is the mom of a few little children at one time, one loses a “sane” perspective and begins to think only of survival…Let me explain…..

I was the busy mom of three children--four years , three years, and one year old. Keith and I were living in Mobile, Alabama, although I was from California and he was from Tennessee; therefore, I had no grandparents nearby that I could ask to watch the kids while I ran errands. We lived on a dirt road in a small white house on a lot that had very recently been a turnip field. So neighbors were not readily available to help us either. When I had errands to run, or children to take somewhere, it was a “family expedition”--everyone and all their paraphernalia came along.

On one particular hectic day about two in the afternoon, I was headed back home with one sick child and two tired ones—all safely strapped in their car seats. We had made all the necessary stops except one--maybe the most important one--the stop for diapers. I pulled into the “last-possible-chance-to-stop” grocery store and looked in the back seat. Oh, no! They were all conked out. Of course! It was nap time; and once again, everything had taken longer than I had planned. I couldn’t wake them up--they had just gone to sleep. And I knew that short naps make short tempers. Waking them up would be setting myself up for a very difficult afternoon.

Sitting in a parking space and pondering my plight, I was desperate! I realized that I had parked in a slot not too far away from the door. A young store clerk had come out to gather up a few grocery baskets and was standing right in front of my car. I jumped into action--here was my answer!

“Excuse me,” I said, as I locked the van, “could you just watch my kids for just a minute? All I have to do is run in and pick up diapers!”

She looked a little bewildered, then confused, like somewhere in the back of her mind she was trying to fit this situation into the “always please the customer” paradigm. This was definitely out of the box and probably not covered in her employee training. I sensed her mental tug-o-war.

“I’ll be right back.” I seized the moment. Carpe diem!

Running into the store, I found the diapers quickly. (I could have found the aisle blindfolded.) Grabbing the Pampers package, I dashed to the Express Lane. No checker. I looked around. I waited. I was feeling more than a little annoyed. Why have express lanes without clerks?

It was then that the manager appeared. He didn’t seem to be having a good day either, but he hurried over to check me out. Together we gave the term “express lane” a whole new meaning.

I expressed my opinion, “It seems that your clerk should be keeping an eye on her aisle.”

He expressed his own frustration, “I’m sorry ma’am, but some crazy lady has my clerk out in the parking lot being her babysitter.”

Simultaneously, we made the connection. We looked at each other and both blushed. He blushed because he realized that he was talking to the crazy lady.

I blushed because I was the crazy lady.