© St. Petersburg Times, published July 22, 2002
I don't eat with my family anymore. As a matter of fact, I don't even remember the last time we ate together. Believe it or not, I don't think I am fine with that. When everyone finally gets home we cordially speak to one another, grab what we want out of the freezer, pop it in the microwave and then go our separate ways. I must admit there are times someone cooks a meal and asks me to join at the table, but I ask myself why I should bother? It is such an effort to pretend we are a family that I don't even try anymore.
Part of me misses being with the family, and dinner was a time I guess I took for granted. I know I haven't made mealtimes easy, and I have been resistant over the past few years about family time, but I wish you hadn't let this happen to us. I know how I contributed to the problem, but why did you give in so easily?
At first, it was a hunger thing for me. I would find myself hungry when I got home from school or from my summer job. My lunch would seem like just a snack so I had to eat something when I got home. When it was time for dinner, I wasn't very hungry. Then several hours later I was ready to eat again but dinner was long over with and everyone was doing his or her own thing. Not only did I not eat with you, but you yelled at me for messing up the kitchen again. I got the point; I felt I had to quietly sneak in and grab my dinner so you would not get angry.
It has been really strange since this started. My eating alone turned into a power thing between us. We would argue about my eating schedule. I would get mad, refuse to come to the dinner table, stomp out of the room, and then everyone else would disappear shortly thereafter. It was sort of a game at first but it has turned into a lifestyle for our family. I decided it must not really matter to you since you didn't stop me and demand I join our little family dinners, but I don't blame myself for the disappearance of this time together. Remember, when this started I was just hungry earlier than dinner time, so I guess I blame you for letting this whole thing get out of hand.
I have been very aware recently of other things that have transpired since dinner time disappeared. We seem to be individuals living under the same roof. We never just talk about our days with one another. I used to hunt you down when I needed something signed for school or sports but now I just forge your signature. You never ask about those things anymore anyway so, oh well! If I sound resentful it is because I am. I know you could say this whole thing is my fault, but wait a minute . . . you are still the parent here, aren't you? I know I don't make our conversations easy, but does that mean we just shouldn't have them anymore?
What am I asking for? Do I really want all this to change now? When I leave this place will I even remember any traditions we used to have or does it even matter anymore? I guess it does or I wouldn't be writing this to you. I am not sure what I want anymore. I know for sure that I need you to help me figure it out. I want to have dinner as a family again, but I think I am also saying something much more meaningful than that!
- IT! (Private thoughts of the Indomitable Teen) is written by Cecilia Tucker under the editorial guidance of a panel of teenagers (in exchange for pizza and volunteer hours). Tucker is a licensed marriage and family therapist at the Counseling Center for New Direction in Seminole. Comments are welcome. You may write c/o: IT!, Xpress, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail Floridian@sptimes.com. If you are interested in being on the teen editorial panel, please contact Cecilia Tucker at firstname.lastname@example.org.