Many of you will identify with a busy evening routine whereby multitasking at its best is showcased! You rush in from work or after school activities and start to prepare dinner. At the same time you’re organising baths or showers for the children, opening the mail, helping with homework and assignments, catching up with your spouse about your day and replying to all the email you didn’t get to before you left work, or that has arrived in your in-box since!
If you’re anything like me, you’re also trying to ensure you’re keeping up-to-date with the major world events of the day via the 6.30pm news while at the same time throwing some clothes in the washing machine. You’re ironing the work clothes or uniforms for the following day and orchestrating the emptying of the bins and dishwasher. It’s chaotic, you’re exhausted and you feel pressured and rushed to get this part of the evening out of the way if you’ve any chance of relaxing later on.
There’s no doubt that dinner in front of the TV is a quick and hassle-free option. Feeding the children first and then worrying about the adult dinners later when the children are having wind-down time, or in bed can also be preferred. However, many years ago I made a promise to myself that regardless of how busy life got, family dinner at the meal table would remain a priority for our family as many nights a week as we could manage.
I grew up in a family where dinner happened at the table almost every night. This seemed easy as my mum was a stay-at-home mum. However, looking back I realise now that eating as a family around the kitchen table was something very intentional my parents did and I’m so thankful for it. I’m thankful for the fond family memories I have of these times, the relationships that were built as a result and the example that was set by my parents that I would take into my own parenting.
A kitchen or dining table isn’t simply wood and varnish, or a piece of laminex with legs (as it was when I was growing up). A table is like a giant memory box where relationships are nurtured and where life is shared. The table should be a safe place where the busyness of life stands still and where the family members feel free to enjoy and celebrate each other.
When we moved house a few years ago, one of the things that excited me most was that the new house had room for a larger table. What a joy it now is to not only enjoy table meals with immediate family members but be able to fit lots of others around the table too! Sharing around a table is so more meaningful than a BBQ in the backyard or juggling plates on laps. It encourages talk and sharing and relationship.
Jesus chose to share his Last Supper around a table. I find it interesting that Jesus could have chosen anywhere for this significant act, yet He chose the table as a place to share such an important moment. I have to believe that there was a message in this, a message that tables are sacred, special places. They are a place where we can come together to talk about hard things, share aspects of our day, escape the busyness of life, relax, enjoy each other’s company, communicate, participate in Junior School ‘talk homework’ (I had to throw that one in!), pray and simply be together.
I’d love to encourage you to use your kitchen or dining table to its full potential. Family meals are worth fighting for and worth organising schedules around to make them work.
Studies prove that families who eat together around a table are healthier, stronger families. Here’s some tips to help you make family dinners work.
- Clean off the table and ensure it’s not used as a ‘dumping’ ground.
- Choose a night to begin your family meals, check schedules and let everyone know.
- Decide on your menu. Don’t go overboard – make a family favourite and keep it simple.
- Establish a ‘no technology’ rule. No phones, no TV’s, no laptops, and turn the TV off.
- Pray and bless your meal. It’s nice to hold hands while you give thanks.
- Ask everyone at the table what was the best thing that happened in their day. This is a great way to evoke conversation.
- Light some candles and play some quiet background music.
- Don’t rush! This is one time in a day when you’re able to come together and take the time to get to know each other better.
- Laugh lots and repeat family meal night as often as you can.
- Have everyone help with the clean-up so it’s done quickly and not burdensome for one person.
Remember – the table is so much more than a piece of furniture. It’s where lessons are learned, manners are taught, relationships are nurtured and ‘family’ really happens.
If you’re not already, why not give family meal times a go?
Mrs Vicki Gunning / Head of Junior School