It’s not just me, right? I can’t be the only one who finds herself thwarted week after week in her efforts to bring the family together for dinner. It sounds like a straightforward proposition to cook a meal and then have all family members sitting down (at the same time) at the table to eat it. But somehow this tradition, that used to be a thoughtless, taken-for-granted part of my family’s day has become somehow…..lost.
There are all sorts of reasons for this, good reasons. They may even be the same as your reasons (which are equally as good as mine). Our kids have activities–not a lot, but a few that they really enjoy–and the older they get the more their activities interfere with dinner plans. Some seasons find us with nursing babies or chronic illness flares, both of which trump any pre-scheduled dinner plans. Also, I hardly ever eat the same thing as the rest of the family, and so sitting down together means having their meal and my meal ready at the same time. And then there are the things that I do for stress management and light exercise–yoga, gardening, walking–that must be done between the time that the Sweetie Pie gets home from work and sundown. Good reasons, right? But as I watch my kiddos growing older, and venturing farther and farther afield, I long for a time to draw them back to the table. To sit down and ask questions and really listen to answers. To have family discourse and find out what they think about different areas of life.
Okay, no eye-rolling. I know my kids are young–our oldest is only 9, and my two-year-old certainly doesn’t have any earth-shattering thoughts to share. But when I think about how quickly those 9 years have gone, and how much more quickly the next 9 are going to go, I realize that I have to set the stage now if I want to be a part of their lives in the future. Taking the time to enter into their lives today, to listen while they’re still willing to talk, will make it easier to keep the conversation going once they’re all teenagers and giving me very different head-aches and the stakes are much higher.
So, I’ve made a vow. To make Family Table Night an intentional part of our weekly schedule. I don’t know how long I’ll be doing this. Three months? Six? I hope to keep at it until it doesn’t even have to be an intentional part of the week, it’s just something that IS. A new routine.
And why am I here, telling you about it? Well, it’s partially selfish. I need the accountability. If I announce to cyberspace that I’m doing something, then, for some strange reason, I’m actually more likely to do it.
Another reason is because I know I’m going to feel like quitting, and I’m hoping some of you will be my cheerleaders. Especially you moms who are walking the road a little farther down than I am. Will you please remind me of the joys of eating dinner with small children? Please?? And be sure to remind me quite often. And if you want to come over one evening and give me a pep talk while I’m sweeping up rice off of the floor, please feel free to do so.
I also hope to inspire those of you who are, like me, missing your peeps at the table. Maybe reading about my successes (I hope there are some) and failures (I know there will be many) will encourage you to intentionally carve out an evening together at the table. Maybe you’d like to share with me what you’re doing to gather your flock. Tell me what’s working for you! I’d love to hear it.
I expect these posts to be kinda all over the place–like one, big, noisy, bubbling-over, joyful, and beautiful family, I anticipate that each post will bring something a little different to the discussion. Of course there will be recipes and cookbooks, but I’m also thinking about things like table settings, table games and conversation starters, maybe even...manners. Gasp!
I do know what I will not be writing about. You will not see a single post quoting statistics about how if you’re not eating dinner together your kids will ride motorcycles, be meth addicts, live on the streets, buy tattoos, and get pregnant all by age 12. Family dinner is something you do out of love, not fear.
And you won’t see any posts referencing Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette (which I do actually own). But I may occasionally quote from Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (which sits beside Amy on the shelf). In our house, Miss Manners is the final (snarky) authority on all questions of respectful behavior.
So consider this your invitation to join me on Wednesdays for the next few weeks…or months…or however long this goes on. No need to RSVP, just show up. There’s always room for one more around the table.