With the exception of car seats, the dining table is the only place where my husband and I have been able to hold a captive audience. During the school year, we have a mere three hour period of togetherness between the return from school and onset of dinner, activities and bedtime. Throughout the week and within these three hours, we carefully balance homework, gymnastics, piano practice, a chiming doorbell and frequent peace talks with as much downtime as possible. Then we sit down to eat, where after a brief blessing, there is the occasional mumbling of protests “I don’t like cheese anymore, I can’t stand ketchup, this lemonade has too many bubbles in it.” But my husband and I look around and realize everyone is there, we love each other, and life is good.
The table is an especially important place in my home, since food translates directly into love with boys. Crazy as it may sound, often the biggest accomplishment of my day is timing a healthful meal and setting a simple table for my family. But it is a ritual of love that I perform each weekday and everyone knows at 5:30 pm we sit together there. We converse, encourage listening, and remind the boys to ask to be excused and clear their plates when dinner is done. Technology is not invited to the table, and we always keep one chair empty for Jesus, which is occasionally filled by a hungry neighborhood friend. 🙂 We find that when we’re together there, the floor is ours as parents, and we’ve paved a rough road for that privilege. I hope we can always depend upon this space and time for connection as a family, even if the frequency of eating together becomes less over the years.
When my husband first requested that we make an effort eat together every night as a family, I was slightly irritated by his expectation. I thought “man I got a baby throwing bowls on the floor and wiggly boys who care little for eating and even less for sitting. I just want to have a late dinner JUST US, please?” But he promised me we’d get through it, and many cups of spilled apple juice later, we did.
At first it felt oddly formal to me, even though as a child I remember sitting down at the dining table as a whole family on weekends and special dinners, since Dad would only get home from his commute at 7pm on weekdays. But my husband is able to work remotely from home, and we try to take advantage of that blessing. Even if food is devoured in five minutes flat (which with boys, it can happen). We still get to talk about a current event, discuss our faith, share a funny (or sometimes sad) story, learn random trivia and if nothing else, brush up on some manners (burping is not an olympic sport, for the record).
Even if I get nothing else right on any given day, if I can see my family around that table, I will be thankful. Because in the grand scheme of things it shouldn’t matter when or what we eat, or how our dining table appears, or even if we’re on speaking terms, so long as we’re together, and keeping a seat open for Jesus in the midst of all the ups and downs of family life. 🙂