The Magic of the Family Meal

The statistics are clear: kids who dine with the folks are healthier, happier and better students, which is why a dying tradition is coming back

MICHAEL ELINS FOR TIME

The statistics are clear: Kids who dine with the folks are healthier, happier and better students, which is why a dying tradition is coming back

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.

That ideal runs so strong and so deep in our culture and psyche that when...