What does the Family Dinner table conjure up for you?
Laughter, lively discussion, stiff propriety, storytelling, games, seriousness, strictly business, flavorful food, bland food, all manners no conversing?
Maybe there never was a 'table;' rather, it was seats sitting in silence around the television. Or maybe as a kid you sat at the table, while the parentals watched tv, cleaned up the kitchen, etc.
If you grew up with a great example of gathering around the table, it might be even easier for you to share that gift with your family or friends. What I want to share is the hope. The hope that is Redeeming the Table. Because, even I don't have it altogether. I long for it, yes, but I'm far from perfecting the example on this topic.
Ever since Caprice was born, cooking & baking, gathering around the table has been different. Because since she was born, life as our family of four has come unglued. Unglued in a good way, but hard and different. It's a new mosaic. It's setting the table, which seats eight just right and finding out you have two 'drop-in' guests. Those guests are friends you haven't seen in forever and you would never shoo them away. But, it does create a pickle.
That's how our life has been. Breakfast was a leisurely affair, and then V started kindergarten and it's more of a 'no dilly dally' routine. Lunch is just Tay and me, and I often find myself eating while standing up. Not too mention cooking a meal, having the girls set the table, only to allow the three of them eat while I nurse a baby. The timing is a bit off. I can see what I want in the family dinner, lunch, breakfast table, but most often it is more putting out fire work than enjoyable.
These days, Caprice has joined in the family dinner time, which actually makes it easier. She can entertain herself with chewing on broccoli or squash, while we find our landing. So, even though it's currently unravelled, here's what I do believe in about the family table.
My Mantra for The Family Dinner Table
Keep eating together, and if possible, eat really good food. Make taco bars, oatmeal bars, sundae bars where the kids put together their own dinner. Allow mess. Allow food on the floor, grimy hands, babies tactile defenses down smothered in yogurt plopped on their tray and little people encouraged to say, "MMM" real LOUD.
Have manners. Teach 'please' and 'thank you.' Give grace when the fork is tricky, even for the six year old. Encourage napkin usage and words that give life because our words are the free gifts that create the most debt...good & bad. Don't get hung up on the spills, messy faces, the white shirt you just bought stained with tomato sauce. Rather, see the gift. The gift that your people are right there with you, eating, slurping, laughing, and enjoying this meal.
Do thank you! Say thank you to the Creator for providing this gift of food. Thank you to the person who made it. Thank you to the animal who gave it's life to provide the meat you're about to eat. Thank you for this moment to share this meal with these people. Thank you for the good parts, the bad parts, the shared life of gathering, because this life at the table is a glimpse of heaven.
Eat dinner off the good china, just because. Have picnics at the table in the Winter and cold gazpacho outside in the summer as it dribbles down your chin. Make dinners where utensils aren't needed. Expect spills and stained tablecloths to be marks of a dinner well eaten. Dinner war wounds--the best kind.
Try new flavors. Give second chances. Do no thank you bites. Invite others to the chaos. A peaceful table doesn't mean one that is quiet and timid. Tell stories, encourage stories, and make up stories. Talk to one another. Know one another. Keep your sense of humor. Turn off the tv, phone, social media, give your thumbs a break and tune in. Force yourself past the hard tuning out, and engage with this clan of yours. Because one day, they'll be gone and all you'll have is a memory, not a constant knowing.
Do fancy dinner parties. Do breakfast dinners. Do ice cream before dinner. Dress up, use the fine china, pull out the candlebras and freshly picked flowers. Turn on classical or jazz. Rim the martini glasses with colored sugar and filled with smoothies (liquored ones for the adults). Don't worry about the kids not getting a balanced meal, because it will even out.
Make meals about one another. Ask questions. Listen, laugh, and let your four year old pray in "Spanish." Families that eat together, grow together. Don't hurry it when you can. Sometimes you have to eat and run, but let your mantra typically be, "savor." That's what Redeeming the Table is about. The family table, where all are welcome, no one excluded, everyone invited to participate. It's where life is found, best lived and bellies & soul filled to the brim.
What did I leave out? What would you add or what is your mantra?