|Photo by: criminalatt|
Gymnastics, basketball practice, parents’ work hours, ballet lessons, clubs, music lessons, social obligations, church activities . . . . (Did I say church activities?) Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night . . . . The family is busy!
On the weekend, Dad has planned an afternoon with the kids. But Johnny has a basketball game, and Suzie has a birthday party. It’s a no go. The family is more or less together at the game, since parents and Suzie go to cheer Johnny on, but they aren’t together, really—not all of them in one place. Another week slips by, and, except for time in the car, the family hasn’t been together at all.
Long ago, when life was busier but simpler—family farms and lots of work--people had time to be together. Most family time was spent around the table, enjoying good food, and discussing the day. Everyone was in the same place at the same time.
What happened to the family meal?
We snatch breakfast as we zoom out the door. Lunch is at a drive through, in a bag, or at best, in a nice restaurant. Supper is on the go, as we taxi the kids here and there and everywhere. Sometimes Mom and Dad work different shifts and hardly ever see each other, let alone sit down for a meal. What happened to home-cooked? The fine art of cooking has been relegated to weekend experiments, Grandma’s house, Pinterest boards, and nostalgia.
How can we reinstate the family meal?
- Start small. Aim for one meal a day. (For some of you, that will be a gigantic step, not a small one. I truly understand.) Find a time each day that works for the whole family to sit around the table, eat, and visit. Plan an hour for the meal. (I hear you screaming already. An hour!) You need to have time for feeding your faces, for going back for seconds, and for real family sharing. Plan ahead for the cook to be able to make something yummy. If it’s breakfast, it can be as easy as a collection of cereal boxes in the middle of the table and bowls and milk. If it’s supper, make it nutritious and delicious.
- Keep that one meal’s time “sacred.” (The family meal can vary from day to day, if necessary. For example, you can nominate breakfasts on Monday and Thursday and suppers on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.) Nothing, barring sickness or dire emergency, comes before your family meal. Free up the time. You owe it to your family.
- Plan your schedule. Plan for the vital family meal. When you are asked to add something to your schedule, make sure you only say “yes” if it doesn’t interfere with your mealtime. Never give up your family meal for something less important.
- Plan to cook. It doesn’t matter who does the cooking, but groceries need to be bought and the daily meal planned. You may want to start making a grocery list, especially if you’re used to eating out or doing sandwiches all the time. Try new things that you think your family will love.
Benefits of the family meal:
- Quality, non-pressured family time—This is when Mom and Dad can talk about their day. The children can tell what they did and what they learned. Everyone can enjoy being together, looking at each other’s faces, and eating. One of the great secrets of close families is mealtime. Statistics prove it!
- Sharing and listening—Parents and children can speak in a totally non-threatening atmosphere. They learn to listen to each other and to express themselves to others. This is a very important life skill. Sometimes, mealtime will be hilarious, and sometimes, deep ideas will be discussed.
- Teaching and learning good table manners—Children who learn manners at home do the right things later in life, automatically. Eating together provides the perfect platform for teaching correct manners to your kids. Table manners include saying please and thank you, passing food, making sure everyone gets some, and the obvious, like not slurping, burping, not eating with one’s mouth open or talking with one’s mouth full. They learn how to hold a fork and knife, which spoon to use, etc. Make sure you sometimes set the table more formally, with china, nice glassware, and more than one fork and spoon. (Birthdays are great for this!)
- Facilitating family prayer—The “blessing” is an opportunity to pray for each person’s needs for the day. (Our family used to read the Bible after the meal, while everyone was still seated. That might work for you, too.)
- Better nutrition—Home cooking is less processed, more likely to include a salad and veggies, lower in calories, and better all around than what you get in a restaurant. Your children will learn to love broccoli, cabbage, beans, and squash.
- Your children might get interested in cooking—When children see their parents grilling or cooking, they will watch and learn. Our kids are the next generation. How wonderful if they—both boys and girls—learn to put together meals that look and taste good!
Do you want a closely-knit family? Do you want your kids to have an open relationship with both you and your husband? Do you want them to relate easily and openly to each other? Do you want to pass your Christian values on to your children?
Reinstate the Family Meal.
Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways.
For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands:
happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.
Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house:
thy children like olive plants round about thy table.
Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD.