Thursday, August 11, 2016

Every Night--I Promise It Works!

I always dreamed that we would have deep meaningful conversations around our dinner table, especially on holidays. But we are normal parents with four normal children who despite our best efforts could bicker about anything, complain about their favorite food, monopolize the conversation, jump out of their seats twenty times during one meal, and spill the milk. Oh wait, it was usually my husband or I who spilled the milk! (Of course, we were trying to prevent that, or some other minor catastrophe.)



Not to say that our family meals were disasters. Rarely did all of those things happen at any one meal and we had meals where none of them happened. But the conversation was more likely to have one person telling us over the period of ten minutes what happened in their dream the night before until it became so fantastic that you wondered when the dream stopped and where the imagination began. Or we parents feeling like interrogators trying to find out when a project was due and what was involved. Or heard the full and complete story of what happened in a video game. Or, well, you get it. It just wasn't the conversation of my dreams.

Not to say we never had good conversations. Often they were short, so short they were almost over before we realized how deep the question had been, or how profound the insight. Like when our five year old son said, "If the earth rotated slower, days would be longer, right?"



Or when our youngest asked a question about what she was learning in science and her brother who is nine years older answered her question in detail that sounded like a textbook, but in words that she could understand.

Or when our other daughter asked if we could pool our Christmas money to buy something nice for some kids at church who barely had the money to pay bus fare to church.

How did these happen? We sat down to dinner with our kids and we all stayed at the table for thirty minute or more...every night. We had kids living at home for basically twenty-seven years. And we had dinner with them every night they were home.



In their late teens and early twenties jobs, practices, friends, and classes took them away more often, but if they were going to be there, we ate together. We flexed our meal schedule to make that possible.

Today our kids are our friends. We enjoy getting together. I was thrilled when our German son-in-law told me he couldn't wait for Christmas because he wants his daughter to know her American cousins, "Because with family you don't have to impress anyone. You can be yourself."

When our five year old granddaughter visited by herself for three days the thing she wanted to do "next time I come alone" is have a picnic dinner with us. And the event she took the most pictures of was a four generation family dinner celebrating her great grandma's 90th birthday.



My daughter-in-law asked me to come stay with her for a week while my son takes an intensive PhD class. And my other daughter-in-law and our youngest daughter are planning a road trip together.

This kind of family closeness doesn't just happen. Twenty-seven years of family meals has helped. Along with these thoughts.

If you feel like dinner last night was a disaster and you are tempted to feed the kids early and enjoy a quiet meal with your husband or plunk everyone in front of the TV while you eat (both options once in a while), please think again. It might seem like a failure, but the time spent together is not. I promise you!



Here's a project: take a small notebook or even a piece of paper. After dinner try to write down one good thing that happened at the meal. It might start with, "No one spilled anything," or "No one got scolded." But listen to the conversation. Maybe you will add, "Noah said 'please' and 'thank you' without prompting!" And then, "Kait told her sister she was proud of her!" 

Keep it handy and do this every night for a week. Or longer if you can. Or every once in a while. After a time, look back at this record. You will see a pattern of family meals having benefits in your family. I promise.


Tell me some of the good things that have happened around your table recently! I'd love to hear them. Write below in the comments or at this email.





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Can't wait to read Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at MealtimesDid you know it is available on Kindle?

You can get a copy today for only $4.75!


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