Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Nights at the Round Table

by Aran Seaman

When my husband Greg was a child, his family ate at a round table. The table was inherited from grandparents, and placing it in the dining room suited the shape of the room. But there was another benefit to the round table which was less apparent: because there was no “head” to the table, everyone in the family had an equal place. The ambiance was very democratic – the children shared ideas with their parents as equals, and this encouraged the spontaneous and relaxed sharing of ideas.

The neighbors across the street were a fun, vibrant Italian family. But dinnertime was a strict affair, with the father sitting at the head of the large rectangular table and the mother at the opposite end. The father held court during meals, and the kids were expected to “eat up and shut up.” Although Greg spent much of his time in their house, he never stayed for dinner. He seemed to think that the table seating arrangement, which mirrored the traditional family hierarchy, stifled open communication.

It may be a stretch to think that the shape of the table and the seating order can influence communication, but we also dine at a round table in our home, and it has been the center of countless happy times spent with family and friends.