Thursday, January 15, 2015
The Family that Eats Together
Someone shared this article on Facebook yesterday. It's about the importance of having supper together as a family--sitting around the table at a designated time, eating together, and talking. Especially talking. I couldn't agree more.
I didn't grow up with this experience. I am the youngest of my siblings, and there are seven years between me and the next-youngest. I have a few memories of people being around at mealtimes, but I have more memories of being the only child in the house, and more often than not, eating supper on a TV tray while watching television in the living room. A few times a year one of my aunts would visit, and I cherished those times because when Aunt Lou came we ate around the table. Not only that, Aunt Lou made sure we prayed before we ate.
My husband and I have always had supper together, first without kids, then with kids. I don't remember our making a conscious decision to do so. It's just something we did. Then some years ago one of our pastors taught us how to do an even better job of making mealtime a family event. I wrote about that in a past blog post, but here's a summary:
1) The meal is to begin and end with prayer. Prayer is led by the Table Master (see #2) unless the Table Master assigns someone else to do so.
2) Father is the Table Master. If Father is not present, Mother is the Table Master. If the Table Master desires, he or she can designate someone else as Table Master for the meal.
3) Once the meal has begun, no one leaves the table without requesting and receiving permission from the Table Master.
4) The Table Master designates one of those dining to be the Server. The Server has permission to come and go from the table as needed to meet the needs of those dining.
5) No one leaves the table until all have eaten, the closing prayer has been said, and the Table Master has dismissed the table.
Over the years we have become a little more relaxed with the table rules, especially with the college kids. We don't explicitly appoint a Server. We don't require the adult children to ask permission to get up from the table if they need to get something during the meal. But the general principles remain: the meal begins and ends with prayer. No one leaves the table until the closing prayer is said. Our kids know this and respect it, and even our adult children ask to be excused if they need to leave the table early. (There have been a few times when they were younger that we were eating at someone else's house and our kids kept sitting, and sitting, and sitting, until I realized they were waiting for the closing prayer and dismissal.)
Also over the years, my husband has added another element to our meals: sharing time. There are some meals that are more hurried, so we don't always have sharing time, but we often do. Before the closing prayer, Dad goes around the table asking each person in turn: "Do you have anything to share?" Of course, there has been sharing up to that point. But maybe someone has something to share that he didn't get the opportunity to share earlier. This is his chance to do so while everyone is still present and listening.
There are times now when the college kids are away and Dad's schedule doesn't allow him to come home for supper that it's just me, Evan, and Grandma. Sometimes Evan and I eat at different times from Grandma, and especially when that happens we tend not to take as much time with the meal. I guess that's okay, since Evan and I still spend the majority of every day together, so there is plenty of time for sharing. We still always begin and end with prayer. But I need to make sure that as he grows up, we continue to cherish the family mealtime as we always have. I think the article is spot on. There are immeasurable benefits, not only to the family, but to the individuals in it, in making mealtime a focus of the family's life together. If it is not something you are doing in your own family, it's not too late to start.