For the first few years of our marriage, our dining table was more of a storage table. We ate at it maybe once a year. A typical dinner time was spent in front of the TV watching the next episode of whatever series we were currently watching. It didn’t seem like a big deal then and, really, it wasn’t until we had children we started to see the importance of the forgotten table. I believe as families we are missing out on so much because we rarely spend time around the table. The chaos of our daily lives does not permit us to gather in one location for long.
As a child, my family ate dinner together every night. Many a night I heard about the cars my father was working on at the time and I think I can attribute my “higher than average knowledge of cars for a girl” to those dinners where discussions of engines and transmissions was shared. It led to my brothers both racing cars and one of them following in my father’s footsteps. As parents, we have a greater influence than we sometimes even realize and that influence can be spread through family dinners.
These dinners provide the time for us to know one another better. It allows parents to more intimately know their children and what is happening in their lives. Conversations shared between a mother and father imitate how a loving couple speaks to one another. For younger children it teaches them language skills and how to properly converse. Manners can also be taught at the table, thus preparing them for other social settings.
When families daily sit down for meals together it provides stability and structure for children. They know they can expect a meal every night so it gives them a sense of belonging and importance in the family. Children thrive on structure and routine.
Taking the time to sit down as a family takes effort. In our fast-paced world, it may seem impossible. Sometimes, though, we have to force ourselves to simplify. Slowing down our lives allows kids to be kids and allows parents to teach and model. I know many of you probably feel this is not achievable in your lives because of practices, games and work schedules and it may not be at this time. I do encourage you, though, to find time at least once a week to sit down, as a family, to a home-cooked meal that even the kids can help prepare. It isn’t easy. And trust me, I am not judging your busy schedule. As I shared earlier, the dinner table was not important to us for years. I also know how hard it is to find time to make a meal. The process of simplifying our lives starts with small steps. You don’t have to makeover your whole life in a night. You make small changes here and there. Maybe your one meal per week eaten at the table is take-out. That is fine! It is more about the time invested in showing our children we care, love, and want to know them on a deeper level.
One last thing….when you do get the chance to sit down as a family have it be free from distractions. We can all set down our cell phones for 30 minutes. My husband and I don’t even bring ours to the table so we aren’t tempted to check them. Turn off the TV and music…everything. You want your kids and your spouse to have your undivided attention for that short amount of time. It makes everyone feel special and important. So, my challenge to you is to bring back the family dinners. Sit and enjoy one another’s company. Breathe a deep breath and find serenity in the chaos!