Dinnertime in our home has not always been as structured as it is now. Michael's work schedule has not been conducive to family time at the dinner table. And for a long time I felt like he had to be here in order for us to have that time at all. Not to mention, cooking has not always been my forte.
In recent years and months, however, I have really become an exploratory cook; trying new recipes, focusing on at home eating and less eating out, and trying new meal ideas that aren't necessarily common "kid meals". My little guys protest eating some things but we are branching out and trying to broaden their taste horizons.
Most importantly, we are doing it together.
The idea and concept of the family gathering as one unit for one meal a day has become sort of ancient and old fashioned. Though Michael is working on the road several weeks a month, the kids and I have made it a habit to eat dinner together every night. No excuses, no alternatives. Mommy makes one meal. We all sit down around 6pm, eat, and clean up together. The kids know the drill. They set the table, pour glasses of milk or kool-aid, and alternate saying the prayer. We eat it up and they share the responsibilities of clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, and wiping down the counters. This new routine has been an evening sanity saver and we have put it into practice regardless of whether daddy is in town or not.
To add to this new routine, I decided I wanted to involve one another in conversation at the table to hopefully out-shadow the occasional arguing and complaining (gasp, kids do that?). And so the birth of "Table Talk":
I recycled a formula can, hot glued some paper around the outside, and just wrote the words on the side. Inside the can are folded pieces of paper, each containing one question such as, "What is your favorite song?". The questions vary from spiritual inquiries, to favorites, to descriptions of certain moments. I came up with the various questions myself and will have to come up with more to keep the can full. Each night we will pull out one or two questions and everyone gets an opportunity to share. The fun is obviously in the answers. Yesterday at our Valentine's dinner one of the questions was, "What are you top 3 favorite movies?". As each person answered, the table was full of laughter and giggling. This week the "Table Talk" idea has been a huge success and encouraged more productive conversation at our family dinner table.
I understand that schedules are chaotic. And eating together at the dinner table is not always possible. But the time shared when gathered together at the end of the day is irreplaceable. Each person knows what to expect, accepts responsibilities in the setting and cleaning, and enjoys the time to eat and share with one another.
I may be more moderate in my politics and less conservative in my faith than some.
But when it comes to good ol' family values, I am as traditional as it comes.
I know that your weekly schedule is not the same as mine but I hope that this example of Gaffner Chaos is an encouragement to you and that you enjoy a meal this week with your family... sharing, laughing, and consuming calories to your hearts content.