Growing up in a family of six has provided me with some unique opportunities. From family trips, sporting events, to simply watching movies, almost nothing ever felt mundane. But if there was one event that transcended all others in it’s exclusive ability to form unique memories, it was around the family dinner table. In today’s run and gun lifestyle, fewer families actually sit down together to enjoy a meal and if they do, many times it’s around the television (and yes I understand the addiction of shows like Breaking Bad). Family dinners are an integral part of not just building strong bonds but developing each member as their own steadfast pillar. Here are some epiphanies brought to you by your local kitchen table.
Everyone can catch up
There’s no surprise there. To properly unveil the power of a family dinner, we have to start at the base. Whether it be lunch, dinner or even just gathering to demolish a box of doughnuts (which my family does often), the opportunity for family members to sit down and discuss each others’ day is much needed. Even if the instances of each person’s day seem unimportant, it’s learning about these instances, which provides context for ensuing conversation. Some of that ensuing conversation includes planning and sorting.
Things get sorted out
The congregation provided by a family meal allows each family member to inform others of their future plans. It usually didn’t matter whether we were discussing the evening plans or the plans for next week, by the end of the meal everyone would be on the same page. My mother would literally pull her massive monthly calendar off her desk and ask people what their plans were and inform us of any conflicting dates. But there’s more to a family dinner than the tedious sifting through questions and the obligatory asking of, “how was your day.”
Little family quarrels are another thing to often get sorted out at the dinner table. It didn’t matter if you were right or wrong, when both family authorities are within reaching distance of pulling your ear, your attentiveness and willingness to submit exponentially increase. Cooperation is also more likely at the dinner table because lets be real, who wants to be sent to their room in front of their siblings? It only prolongs any apologies, making it that much more awkward to mutter you’re sorry. Aside from the randomly sparked arguments, the underlying cause of most quarrels was a feeling.
They cause tears
As previously mentioned little debacles can get sorted out at the family dinner table. But these arguments don’t always occur because someone ate the last piece of cake (which is more than upsetting in my opinion), they happen because of buried emotion. Growing up, it was difficult hiding any kind of emotion at the dinner table. It didn’t matter if it was emotions of joy or lament; someone at the table was bound to read you.
For parents, eating as a family could prove as an integral part of discovering not just who your children are, but how they operate under different emotions. It didn’t take long for my parents to figure out that “harmless” teasing at the dinner table could quickly escalate to anger and flying food. This eventually lead to “no diss Sunday,” (no insults). An invention of my mothers explicably designed to prevent unintentional hurt feelings on a Sunday. But even for siblings, family meals provide a prime opportunity to unveil others’ emotions.
Growing up with three other siblings, we naturally paired off and developed a closer bond with one in particular. For me that was my sister. After my brother passed there would be times when sitting around the table my sister would seem lively and jubilant. However, through her little mannerisms she displays under stress I’d be able to tell her true feeling. If this were the case I’d often follow her to her room post meal to find her in tears. In these instances we could share our daily struggles and assist each other in working through them. Looking back those were some of the best heart to hearts we had growing up.
On the flip side of the coin, if there was sour mood around the dinner table, with six people it didn’t take much to lighten the mood. For instance, just the sight of my father coughing at the dinner table immediately brings smiles to our faces, why? It will forever be salient in our family’s mind the time my father started coughing after taking a sip of milk. It’s safe to say at leas 5/6 people at the table were sprayed. A little grotesque, yes but every bit as hilarious; so hilarious we cried. Just remember as J.R. Tolkien wrote in The Return of the King,
“Not all tears are an evil.”
More than your body is replenished
Everybody knows on an individual basis that eating fuels the body, and sure one could also say with good food comes good feelings. But the satiety of a full stomach only lasts as long as your metabolism allows. Don’t be discouraged, because eating with others, especially your family can provide satiety for a lifetime. How so?
In addition to everything aforementioned, it’s around the dinner table some of my fondest memories have been developed, and it’s around the dinner table I learned some of the most applicable life lessons. From my family’s blunt sense of humor to the eye opening parental conversations, post dinner I almost always find myself mentally refreshed. Why? Because the derived conversations have provided motivation for the day, peace of mind, hope for the future and guidance for a lifetime.
Even though I’m not a parent, family dinners are certainly one thing I’d recommend to all families. The continuity they provide over the course of time is unparalleled. They are a catalytic construct that accentuate the good times and provide healing during calamity. If you want to build a strong family that’s resilient in life, the dinner table is a great place to start.
You may have noticed there’s been almost no reference to the Gospel in this post. So I will leave you with this; what was one of the last things Jesus did with His disciples? Prepared for the coming days around a table in one of the most known stories from the Bible, The Last Supper. (Matthew 26:17-30, Luke 22:7-38, Mark 14:12-16, John 13-14:7)