My mom handed me a book, The Surprising Power of Family Meals. The subtitle is how eating together makes us smarter, stronger, happier and healthier. Intrigued, I added it to my summer reading list.
Words have always touched me deeply. And the words in this book were no different. Getting dinner on the table takes three times longer than the recipe says these days. Every evening, I am interrupted by diapers to change, fights to mediate, little hands wanting to help and probably a booty to wipe. All for my kids to take two bites and announce loudly they are done for the rest of the meal. Is it even worth it?
While I hope you read this book, spoiler alert: it is worth it. Here are my life changing takeaways from this book.
- Meals connect generations – when we forgo eating meals with our people we really miss out on simple opportunities to connect our children with the legacy or memories of their family before them. We have a running joke in my family – if anyone has something on their face they get called Aunt Jean (or June?). Apparently when my parents were newly married my dad’s aunt went through their meal with something hanging off of her chin. Now, in this instance, the situation isn’t motivational or inspiring, and though there are many times these stories are, they don’t have to be. Just a simple reminder that we are a part of something bigger. A glimpse into my parents as silly twenty somethings. Proof that family was here before me and will continue on after me. Ideas and values I hope to instill in my children.
- Meals are an expected, everyday point of connection for my kids with their dad – I have the joy of staying home with my babies all day long. They know me and I know them. We have ample opportunities everyday to connect. But what about their dad? He’s often gone minutes after they wake up and they are lucky to spend two hours with him in the evenings. How precious that I get to set the tone of anticipation and connection with their father around the table. Judah and Shiloh know nothing different than their dad sitting down to eat a meal with them every weeknight. They know when the smell of onions, garlic and butter start wafting through our home that dad will be home soon. They can expect his undivided attention and love. They can tell him about their day. They can hear about his. I do feel incredibly blessed to stay home with my kids but the beauty of this book was that it was not targeted towards stay at home moms or mothers in general. She goes into a plethora of ways that families carrying completely different loads and living different lifestyles can connect over dinner and why that’s so special.
- Meals slow us down – if we are honest, the reason our culture can’t eat dinner together is because we are in a real, big hurry. It takes time to plan, cook, sit, eat, say no to activities that keep us from the table, and then clean it all up. None of this is the easy, convenient American way. But isn’t our convenience culture part of the reason we are addicted, anxious and obese? What if a practice as simple as dinner time is enough to connect, realign and delight in our life and the people we love. Could a lack of a meal be making us lonely? Making us rely on unhealthy things to cover our hurts? Joey and I have been watching The Chosen. Seeing Jesus sit with his disciples over meals has been wrecking my heart. The slowness, the intention, the love. How about Jesus in John 21? It’s after his crucifixion. His disciples, devastated, have no idea what to do. They go back to their old ways, they fish. Jesus waits for them on the shore, reminds them of who he is by blessing their catch abundantly and then casually, “Come and have breakfast”. Can you feel it? His desire to connect and he chooses a meal? It makes me teary. If Jesus, the most important and productive man to ever walk the earth, GOD HIMSELF, has time to sit and eat I believe we can stop pretending we are too busy with more important things.
I find myself romanticizing dinner these days. A fresh diffuser blend, an inviting playlist, a nourishing meal on the stove, starting early to enjoy my kids and clean up as I go. Setting the table and therefore the tone of our evening. This meal, the one I spent four years avoiding because of the overwhelm, has become a precious moment in my day. A reminder of the fleeting season with young kids at home. The thought of cooking with no interruptions. A house that’s quiet until Joey walks in, it makes me sad.
Every evening, as I chop onions and defrost beef I’m eager to sit and connect with my people, in this season, right now. To show them they are the most important part of my day. To invite their questions and meet their needs. To show them I’m here. I want that burned into their little brains. Mom and dad, we are here and so you are never alone.