Last night, my twelve year old daughter made noodles for dinner as the entire family raced in five different directions. Fall sports season has kicked off, and two of our teen sons stood over the pot shoveling food faster than any backhoe I’ve seen at work. Was there the possibility that if they took the time to grab a plate, the remaining noodles might go AWOL?
I’ll never know. I was “preoccupied.”
The heightened irony of this dizzy-busy scene was that I was knee deep in preparations for an upcoming women’s workshop. The topic on which I am sharing? The importance of family meal time.
Gathering together around a shared family meal is an intentional measure that our family prioritizes, and yet somehow over the last month, that hour has gotten away.
With that lost hour, our family has lost more than feeding our bellies, we’ve lost an hour of feeding our souls. We’ve lost a sense of our family identity.
When we gather together as a family over a shared meal, it’s a time of being deliberate with our moments. By unplugging and insisting on a technology free time together, we come ready to share life as a family.
We turn off the lights, and eat by candlelight… nearly every dinner. Yes, even if it’s frozen pizza or Mac and Cheese, we let those candles flicker. It sets a tone at the table that soothes, calms, and relaxes our soul. We answer our “family dinner questions,” share our high’s and lows, discuss world view issues, but more importantly, we’re together as a family unit. Trust me, with five children (three teens, a middle schooler and elementary age child), “together” is something we have to battle for, yes, it’s a fight with schedules to make that time intentional.
The culture continually pulls our children away from us, and the family’s lack of gathering for meals is just another one of Satan’s victims in his long list of cultural decay.
The Journal of American Medical Association conducted a study a few years ago that suggested that parental connectedness was the single biggest factor in protecting adolescents from such risks as failing in school, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as teenage pregnancy.
Do you know what else this study suggested? Mealtime is the primary avenue to connect!
As fall schedules ramp up, and the lazy days of summer leave, I ask you to join me in fighting for your family meal time. That may mean making some serious adjustments. For us, it means eating some quick snacks on the run to tie us over until a late night, after sports, dinner. When our children were young, and my husband worked long hours, it meant rearranging our sleeping schedule to fight for our family time. We ate dinner at a late hour, even with toddlers, yet it was amazing how they quickly adjusted to sleeping in later as well.
It’s not easy, and it may not always be feasible, but if you’ve gotten away from this high priority, let’s challenge ourselves to bring back that time.
Remember, it’s not about having a five course meal, it’s about sharing life together.
We want to create a legacy of shared family moments around meals. Simple moments transformed into something magical. Memories cultivated through a tradition of intentional living. I want our children to remember…to remember breaking bread together, yet, if I continue on with the schedule of late, they’ll only remember breaking off a piece of bread and throwing it in the toaster by themselves.
So I am thankful that the Lord reminded me of my mission. As I prepared for my conference this week, he reminded me of how passionate I am about bringing families back to the dinner table…starting with my own.
Won’t you join me? Let’s fight for it together!!
Shared by Jen, of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, who is eating dinner at the computer for the last time in a long while.
Lisa H says
our routine is to sit in front of the tv to eat dinner. every night! If for some reason I decide to set the table the kids give me grief and wonder who is coming over. I would love to reclaim this time and reclaim my dining room table. Right now it is covered with mail, coupons, sewing supplies, sewing machine, laptop and a few stuffed animals! Hmmmm, guess I have some work on my end to get this stuff cleared away in order to actually use the table for its intended purpose!
Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) says
Go for it! You can do it. Maybe start slow with only a few times a week, like a detoxing. 😉 Grab some family dinner questions and let them know you are going to do something new. Be purposeful and they’ll see the value.
Amy Hunt says
I so much believe in the importance of together time…at the table, without distractions. We have an unspoken rule that no one reads at the table if someone else is there, too. And we try to seize the together-time for conversation and sharing. For us, it’s really important that we sit down at the table for breakfast together, starting our day with who it matters most to be with–each other. Inevitably, my husband and I learn more about our son’s previous day during breakfast time the next day, and we’re off to a great start in all of our days when we take the time to calmly eat and talk.
My groom and I also have a routine of sharing lunch together a few days during the week, and it really does strengthen intimacy in our relationship.
It’s amazing what sharing a meal does!
Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) says
It’s amazing the communication that can happen in that short time, isn’t it?
This is one tradition that I want to implement once I have children. My husband and I are pretty good about sitting down together for dinner, each night, with no TV or cell phones, but I really want to keep it going once kids come into the picture. This is one thing my parents did really well, despite 4 kids with busy schedules. We always sat down for dinner each week night. Such good memories and I agree that it opens the door for bonding and real communication.
Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) says
Your parents built that legacy into you and now you know the value. You are so right, you will not regret doing it.
Nikole Hahn says
Last night my husband said, “We never eat at the table anymore.”
“The table is too big for just the two of us.” I said.
It isn’t in our case lack of conversation as we converse all of the time, but we found eating at the breakfast bar, teasing him about baseball, and enjoying even a simple salad really solidifies our relationship. I think most families struggle to maintain that connection because it is true that parents have to compete with video games, FB, twitter, etc for their children’s time. The old addage, “The child chooses the quality time,” is still true but with the times changed so drastically, I think the parents need to step in and create that quality time.
Love this post! My husband and I were just talking about the same thing. We get back home from vacation this coming Sunday. School starts Wednesday for our teenager and we are commiting to dinner at the dining table — not in front of the tv — every evening. I think we will use your candlelight idea as well. Sounds soothing and most busy families these days can use a little soothing to wind down the day!
Family time together around the dinner table is so important! My two oldest sons have spent most of the summer evenings at band practice. After the big contest last Friday, all 6 of us were finally able to eat dinner together again Saturday. What a glorious night! I thanked God that we were all able to eat together again! It may seem like such a “small” thing to some people, but coming together at the dinner table has a “huge” impact on our family togetherness. 🙂
Lisa-Jo @thegypsymama says
This is such a fantastic post and challenge, Jen. Thanks so much for sharing with us the real deal behind both how hard and how worthwhile family nights are together!!
Jenny Meyerson says
Thanks you for this reminder/challenge. I will share this with my husband this evening and talk to the kids as well. We feel the juggling act on several nights a week as we have 4 kids and 3 are involved in competitive sports. I am certain God has a solution. When we do prioritize this, we never regret it. Thanks for your willingness to share.
Beth Williams says
My hubby and I sit together and watch TV. It is “our time” to connect & talk about the day & world events.
We begin by praying and just relaxing together. After dinner we sit and snuggle before bed and early schedules.
Thank you for this great reminder. I loved the idea of the candlelight as well 🙂
We don’t often sit around the table to eat )C: We do when we have company, but sometimes we just all curl up on the couches and visit while sitting and eating. As a family we also just eat in the living room on TV trays either with or without TV/movie. My hubby has never been into tradition or doing something because someone says it should be done that way…so has never really felt the “need” to sit at the table. There are times I wish we did, but I don’t feel like we lack for “connection” so I don’t worry about it too much
During some busy seasons when ball schedules made family meal time impossible, we instituted family snack/dessert time! After we got home the boys would run shower and get ready for bed and we would all meet in the kitchen for a light snack or dessert. It allowed us to stayed anchored and besides they were always hungry after a ball game! 🙂
I remember well meal times growing up. I come from a family of ten and we would all squeeze around a large round table and talk and laugh through the whole mealtime. I find it harder to repeat these days with one child in college.
So my priority these days is to have the table set for my husband and myself and if we are lucky enough to see college boy it’s easy to set another plate. I must admit a strong pull to the whole TV tray idea as the house empties but I am willing to fight for that one on one conversation.
Thanks for the encouragement!
Kate @ Songs Kate Sang says
I love our dinner time. I really like the idea of candles and a relaxing mood!