My mother has always had a thing about sitting around the table at supper. When the food was set out, she’d have one of us turn off the TV and we had to focus on each other and talk—or sit and chew in silence.
Most nights we talked. And talked. And talked.
Because my dad was a truck driver, he was gone most weeknights, so it was just the four of us. It was nice having Mom’s full attention as we ate. She’d listen to my sister, brother and I complain about what ‘tragedy’ we may have experienced in our young lives and manage to contain herself from the occasional eye-roll. Or we’d laugh over some hilarious happening of the day.
Sometimes, when Mom treated us with Libby Land frozen dinners, we’d get excited as she broke out the TV trays and we’d watch our favorite shows while devouring what we considered a delicious meal. I’m sure those were the nights Mom couldn’t bring herself to cook. And yet, we thought it was like having a party on a school night.
Mom was also particular about not using paper plates and always putting the food in serving dishes and setting it on the table at supper. We never served ourselves from the stove. Maybe it was because my Grandma, Mom’s mother, was from England and they did things a little more proper there.
After supper, my sister and I were responsible for cleaning up the kitchen. We’d play games while I washed and she dried. Or we’d sing our favorite song, I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor, to the top of our lungs. It was the disco era, after all. Ahem.
When my husband, John, and I first married, I’d come home from work and make a big dinner every night and set it all out on the table. Since I was used to cooking for four or five people, I usually went a little overboard with the amount of food I made. And I had to clean it all up by myself.
After we’d been married six months, John and his brother started their own business. Because he was now working two jobs, and these were the days before cell phones, I never knew when he’d be home. Sometimes I’d have dinner waiting for hours before I’d hear him pull in the driveway. I remember one night not eating until ten o’clock.
So began the demise of my little family’s supper table. From then on we’d eat when we could, most of the time stopping at a drive-thru on the way home or ordering a pizza. We didn’t even sit and eat that at the table anymore. Instead, we’d sit in the den watching TV.
And I felt guilty.
Then my sister-in-law and I opened our own business and life really did get chaotic. The supper table was completely out of the picture.
Until, eight years after we married, John and I had our first child.
At first, it didn’t change things much because we only had to worry about feeding her bottles. But when she graduated to baby food and a high chair, I decided it was time to bring back the supper table.
That was twenty-two years and two children ago. And I’ve made the supper table a priority ever since. Even if it’s not a home-cooked meal, I always try to have us gather around the table. My kids think I’m a little weird when I insist on using real plates and serving dishes when I cook. My daughter says it just leaves that much more for us to clean up. But I don’t care. I have a dishwasher now!
The most important thing that happens around our table, however, is the conversation. Just like it was when I was growing up. There’s just something about having the stress of the day behind us that allows for a relaxed time of sharing. Even if we have guests, we linger longer over the remnants of supper, enjoying the company that surrounds us.
I believe the family supper table is what kept my siblings and I grounded. And I believe with my own children it provides part of the structure needed to feel secure in our home.
In fact, according to The Family Dinner Project, regular family meals are linked to lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders and depression. They also believe it helps nourish ethical thinking.
So, even though I usually dread the words, “What’s for supper?” I’m happy we can reunite most evenings around the table.
- Do you and your family regularly have supper around the table? If you do and your family hasn’t been sharing much lately, check out The Family Dinner Table Project for some great conversation starter ideas for all ages.
- Does your family have a habit of sitting in front of the TV? Try to switch things up by inviting everyone to the table and turn off the TV. You’ll definitely have some push back at first, but eventually your family will begin to look forward to it.
- Is your family involved in so many activities you’re never home to eat? Then make it a priority to try and eat together at a restaurant as much as possible, even if it’s fast food. You’ll still benefit from being together.
Let’s work together to build kingdom homes!