Dinnertime: nourishment of body and soul

As we settle into the whirlwind of fall activity, it may become necessary to set aside down time to be a Family. 

“Down time?! Are you Crazy?! Between ferrying kids to and from scouts and sports and dance and karate and gymnastics and music lessons and play practice and jobs, and the multitude of meetings and appointments and errands and other obligations required of us, how in the world can there possibly be time left to set aside?”

There’s a story about a teacher who presents her students with a jar filled with rocks and the question of whether or not the jar is full. They unanimously answer that yes, indeed the jar is full. She pours pebbles over the rocks, shaking the jar gently and filling the crevices between the stones. “Is the jar full now?” “It sure looks full” Sand is added. “Full?” “Definitely!” She proceeds to add water.

This is suggested as a metaphor for setting priorities in life. The rocks represent the things that make our lives full: family, partner, children, friends, and health. The pebbles represent other things that matter: work, school, car, house… The sand and water are everything else. If you fill the jar with “sand” first, it leaves no room for the relationships that are most critical to our well-being in this life.

How can we find time to really get to know one another as individuals living in the same family, when everyone is running around doing whatever it is they do from dawn until bed time?

Having grown up during a time when most families sat down together to share the evening meal, I never questioned that the dinner hour provides the time necessary to connect with one another. But things have changed a lot since then and consistently gathering together over family dinner is no easy feat. So we settle for a drive through McDonald’s and eat together in the car while running to the next appointed task. Round and round we go, until we arrive home frazzled and grumpy, with little patience left for our most beloved.

The dinner table is the place to learn manners and how to be polite; it is where our children learn to be social with grace. You are a role model and when your children hear you say “please” and “thank you”, observe you sitting still, chewing with your mouth closed, and listening to one another, they are more likely to follow suit. If being polite in social situations is the expectation, children learn to carry their manners into other aspects of life.

By setting aside time to share dinner, more planning and careful preparation goes into creating a healthier meal than what we are able to get on the fly. One way to make this seem more manageable is to get into a routine of preparing several meals at a time for the freezer (soup, spaghetti sauce, chili, casseroles…) This in itself can become a family affair, with the added benefit of teaching the kids kitchen safety and the basics of cooking.

At the dinner table (or perhaps breakfast is a better option for your family), we become exposed to our children’s way of life through discussion of school, friends, books, music, TV, current events and societal pressures. Sharing a meal with those we love allows us to celebrate and commiserate, to problem-solve and learn about where we fit into the grand scheme of things.

When my kids were little and needed to have dinner before Daddy could get home, they would later join us at table with a bowl of cereal before going to bed. As they became involved in their own extra-curricular activities (which invariably occurred through the typical dinner hour) mealtime was pushed back, and often we did not sit down until 8:30 or later.

But here’s the thing: Two of my sons have gone off to set up housekeeping together with some of their friends in another state, and they continue to sit down together for dinner every night. For as my 24 year-old has so wisely observed: “Family is sacred.”- RDW (9-17-10)

One thought on “Dinnertime: nourishment of body and soul”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *