Last summer, my kids traveled abroad for the very first time. They saw for themselves what it meant to leave their homeland and visit another country – a different culture, different language, and a completely different way of life.
In so many ways, I think the Italian people are doing it right – they work to live, they don’t live to work.
For the Italian people, family values and traditions are paramount. These things are not blurred by hours of homework, excessive afternoon activities and endless evening schedules. Eating and talking together as a family is their timetable.
I can’t remember the last time our family was all present to sit down together at the same time to eat – and really talk and enjoy one another’s company. I don’t mean the nights you “sit” together but hardly speak because within ten minutes, one kid is off and running to practice while the other kid works on homework. At dinner time, there’s no real conversation because we’re all trying to just make it to the next “thing” on our busy schedule. There’s no real relaxing family time. No quality time.
When we were in Italy, it is so obvious that families celebrate their meal. They eat their food slowly. They talk. They laugh. There is no rush to get on to the next activity because mealtime is the activity – it’s an integral part of the daily routine.
The other major difference I noted while we were there is that people are not buried in their Smartphones and tablets the way we are here. Kids are outside playing, throwing a ball to one another or playing tag. Adults sit at café’s and converse with one another over coffee. Have you ever entered a coffee shop in the United States and watched people actually talking to one another? It’s a rarity. I think you are in the minority if you don’t attend to your mobile device in Starbucks.
On so many levels, I think that’s sad.
As Americans, we are rushed. We have become a slave to the over-scheduling of our children. We are obsessed with social media and schools have piled on more homework (which certainly isn’t the answer in education) but that’s another post…
And then we wonder why we are stressed, why we never have any quality time to ourselves or for those in our family.
Well, as they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” right?
Maybe it’s time to implement some of the Italian traditions in my own American home. Less stressing over homework. Less over-scheduling. Less rushing around every single day. Instead, more face time. I mean, real face time. And more mealtime. Quality mealtime.
I vow to have dinner time mean more than just a survival tactic at least twice a week on weeknights to serve as a celebration; a gentle reminder to our family that these are moments we should cherish.
Perhaps we should all take a cue from the Italians – who certainly appear to be doing it right.