|The children set the Thanksgiving table.|
I love making food.
I love making food for the people I love.
I don't always love dinner time.
I spend hours thinking about food: procuring, chopping, marinating, fermenting, sautéing, blending, roasting, baking. And then there's the kitchen clean up...
After the dreamy days of preparing the perfect meal, I present my labors for three children who turn up their noses. They don't always appreciate the labor of love in front of them.
Recently, it hit me during one of these dream shattering wake up calls. Dinner time isn't just about the food.
Dinner time is a sacred time. I must fight for it.
No matter what stage of life you find yourself -- with babies, teenagers, and every staged between, there is something (many things?) that pulls us away from the table.
The table is the one place where we all are gathered and sit face to face. No other time during the day are the five people in my home focused on one another.
Dinner time is the portion of the day when we learn about each other. What were the highs? Where were the lows? How can I encourage? Let's talk about plans for tomorrow. Not only do the adults ask questions but we prompt our children to step outside their egocentric circles and ask about another. When guests come, we help the children think in advance a question they could ask.
Reality is, the children interrupt adult conversations. Babies make gigantic messes. Some children complain about the menu (yes, mine). To be quite honest, more times than not, our table time is shorter than I prefer. My eldest longs to be other places and the baby makes everyone miserable with loud shrieks once he is full. Sibling rivalry even rears its ugly head during dinner.
We must battle for this sacred time.
I can't think of a night when the dinner hour was perfect. Why do I have this unrealistic expectation? I'm working to readjust so that when we have gathered as a family there is a sense of achievement. We were together.
If it were easy, more people would be doing it. Take off your oven mitts and put on the boxing gloves. This is a battle worth fighting. Gather your people around the table, turn off your electronic devices and gaze into one another's eyes.
Where else do children intentionally and consistently interact with adults? The table is a place to practice manners. We practice not only with napkins in our laps but also with the placement of our words. The tone of our voice and the choice of our vocabulary. We practice showing preference to one another: let me serve you. Over and over and over. We practice these things.
Don't fall prey to the idealistic notion that your meal needs to impress Martha Stewart. Or even be Sally Fallon nutritious (though I do recommend a ferment at every meal!) Life sometimes necessitates take out. At least try to sit together and face one another. Resist the temptation to eat on the run, standing up, or in the car. Dinner time is a sacred time.
And when your less-than-perfect dinner time concludes, there is still more family time! Everyone can take their plate to the counter or load into the dishwasher. Even the smallest of hands can wipe the table while the more coordinated children can sweep the floor. My husband recently started motivating the children towards happy hearts with blasting the very religious music of one of his favs -John Mellencamp. Now our 21-month-old requests in his own way to ROCK in the USA after every meal.
Good times. Good memories.
Fighting for my right to party, [another 80's music reference]