Four mismatched plastic plates. Two mismatched adult plates. Six cups. A dog patiently waiting under the table, waiting for food to fall. Lots of questions, music playing in the background. Questions about how many bites are necessary. Reminders about no toys at the table, sitting correctly in chairs, eating slowly, putting plates in front of us, taking bigger (or smaller bites). These are all things you would see and hear if you could see our table at dinnertime. Our family dinners are probably in many ways like yours. Nothing special. Our kids spill and complain and laugh. Some days there are battles. Some days there are happy hearts. Our table never looks put together. There is nothing beautiful on the table. The beauty, in my opinion, surrounds it.
I want to assure you, our table holds nothing unique. And yet, I believe that our dinner table is one of the most precious places in our home. When we eat around the table, we practice presence. We show commitment to each other. We are face to face. We have opportunities to engage with each other. As we gather around he table, we practice the habit of moving towards one another. We take turns listening. We take turns asking questions. We laugh. We move towards each other.
When the older kids were really small, someone told me about the importance of practicing talking about the little things in life with our kids. As we are intentional about communication in the everyday moments, we set the stage for communication about the bigger and harder and more sensitive things we face. This concept has impacted me. Even though some of my kids are quiet, I keep asking the questions. Even when there’s more awkward conversation than natural connection, we keep practicing. The table is a place where this happens regularly.
There are many studies that talk about the impact of family dinnertime. It impacts connection, development, emotional well being, relational skills, communication and more.
We have done family worship at times around the table. We have tried new ways of connection around the table. Some have stuck, others haven’t. But the consistency is our togetherness. I admit that I have a really hard time allowing our evening schedule to get so busy that we lose our time around the table.
I may be wrong, but I will some day sit at a much quieter table, and I think I will be thankful for the time we shared around it. I may have a few specific stories to tell, but it will be the memory that this is the place we gathered that remains. I hope I will see the fruit of consistent gathering. I hope my kids will be shaped by moving towards each other with questions, story telling, listening and laughter. More than anything else, I hope this dinner table makes my kids feel something. I hope it brings them joy. I hope it makes them feel secure. I hope they feel love. I hope they find at this table a drop in the ocean of God’s love for them. #exhalecreativity #exhalenoticewriting #daytwentyone #table