The Family Table

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Father, we thank Thee for this food.
For health and strength and all things good.
May others all these blessings share,
and hearts be thankful everywhere.

It is interesting to see how many books are devoted recently to the subject of eating meals as a family. I remember the day (yeah, I know, I’m getting old) when buying such a book would have baffled folks. Why, because families ate together. That is just how it was done…no one would have bought a book dedicated to the subject. Now there are actual studies done on the act of sharing mealtimes (“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends shared dinner times as often as possible as a way to strengthen families and support children’s development”). Growing up in a city (not a farm where the whole family worked cooperatively), we didn’t eat breakfast and lunch (dinner) together except on the weekends but we had supper together every night, with our feet tucked under my Momma’s table. We each helped to *create* that meal that we shared. Someone would peel potatoes or prepare the vegetables, someone else would set the table, make a salad, etc. Afterwards, there would be the clearing of the dishes then the dishes were washed, dried and put away. Day in and day out, that was just what we did. Eating out was a very rare occurrence. There were the special occasions though...supper at Grandma’s house, company coming to supper, a special holiday meal, a summer picnic planned at the park or mountains or a church potluck. Looking back, mealtime was a time of peacefulness, sharing, laughing and genuinely enjoying each other’s company. Lessons were learned, thankfulness (grace started each meal), table manners, simple cooking tasks, how things were done, passed from one generation to another. I’m so thankful my Mom & Dad observed a family table and meal times were sacred.

Now that I am the Mom, I’ve tried hard to make the same experiences. With only 2 children still at home, I really see the need for families to do this. Your time with your children is so very short. You won’t believe how incredibly quickly it will go. Draw distinct boundaries around at least 1 meal a day when every member of the household will be home to enjoy it together. Incorporate your children in the routine of preparing that meal, readying the table (even a 3 year old can set silverware at each place setting) and the clean up. Many times my kids have shared special thoughts with me when it has been just the 2 of us washing and drying dishes. One more thing, whatever you have that is “special” (your wedding china, Grandma’s special tablecloth, etc.), use it on occasion for your family. They are special and so worth your special stuff.