Spring 2012: “Eating Together” Powerful Voice Winner Hanna Walker

Read Hanna's essay about how the dinner table brings together more than just people.

Hanna Walker, a student of Edward Moody at Cowles Montessori in Des Moines, Iowa, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, “You Are What You Eat With,” by Katherine Gustafson. She is our Powerful Voice winner for the Spring 2012 writing competition.

Writing prompt: “Does it matter who you eat with and how often you eat together?”


Dinner at My House


My family is made up of five people—my mom, dad, twenty-one-year-old sister, five-year-old brother, and me. I’m thirteen. We recently started eating together at the dinner table. I can already see a difference in how our family communicates with and supports each other. We are more organized, too!

Before my family started eating at the dinner table, we had to work hard to get together. Our life was chaotic. We were constantly late to school, family events, and sports practices and games. If there was a possibility of being late to an event, we were. Since we started eating together we have been on time and more organized as a family. I think that when we sit with each other at dinner we are more aware of what we are supposed to be doing, and where we are needed.

I agree with what Katherine Gustafson says in her article, “You Are Who You Eat With. “The more often teens have dinner with their parents, the more likely they are to report to their parent about what is going on in their lives.” Communication between my parents and me has also improved a great deal since we started sitting together while eating dinner. My mom and dad have a better understanding of what I do in school and what I need help with. When I am feeling like I cannot finish an assignment my parents always say encouraging things like, “You are smart and you can figure it out.” Sometimes I procrastinate about finishing work and my mom will say, “Just do it. You cannot get it done if you do not start.”

The dinner table not only helps my parents and me communicate, but it also helps my little brother Gavin because he always has something to say or ask for. At the table, Gavin has a chance to speak what is on his mind with no interruptions and with all the attention on him. The other night, Gavin asked our parents if we could see the new Avengers movie. My parents didn’t really like this idea because my brother often gets in trouble for his Superhero fighting moves, but they said, “Maybe we can go if you don’t do your dangerous Superhero moves.” A few nights later, Gavin promised—in a quiet and serious voice—“I promise I won’t do the moves during the movie.” The dinner table was a safe place to work things out.

With five people, it can be hard to gather everyone, but dinner is a time during the day when all of us can spare 30 minutes. My brother Gavin is only five and is still learning the many things he needs to know. I found this excerpt from the article relevant to Gavin: “Family dinner also encourages the development of language skills and emotional intelligence in children.” I have seen my brother grow in attitude and behavior since we started the habit of eating dinner together.

Eating together has expanded beyond my immediate family. My grandpa has started a tradition with my uncle, mom, and our families. Once a month, we gather together to try foods from different parts of the world. Like the article, we share traditions and dishes to learn more about other cultures.

Eating at the dinner table is probably the best thing that our family has chosen to do in a while. For me, it’s a time to collect myself, especially with today’s distractions. It’s also a place where my family learns something new about each other—what’s worrying them, or what makes them happy. It’s an opportunity for all of us to slow down and get our life organized and on track.

My advice to people is eat together! As long as you enjoy the person, it does not matter who you eat with. It can be your family, your friends, a new neighbor, your teacher, or a new classmate. The dinner table brings together more than just people. It brings together stories, support, understanding for one another, and—the chance to see The Avengers!

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