Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Rewards of Eating Together as a Family

I love eating together as a family.  The majority of my childhood dinner memories are eating on tv trays in front of the tv. :(  But I have sought something better for my own family.  I love a nice dinner and the wonderful promise that the family meal table holds: good food, good conversation and the warm memories. 
Sometimes our dinners at the table are full of exciting stories of the day or anticipation for an upcoming event. Sometimes they are quiet and peaceful with lovely melodies playing softly in the background.  Once in a great while we just have a prepared chicken dinner from the grocery store deli.  And sometimes it's just some oatmeal and fruit.  The food is not so important as the fact that we are together smiling, conversing and enjoying one another.

There were even times when we've had no table to eat on.  Just a picnic blanket at the park, on the beach and sometimes gypsy style on our laps in the car or a hotel room. But we still had the most important element - each other. 

I love knowing that my children will have happy memories of eating together as a family where our hearts were knit together.  Dinners together also allow the children to hear about Dad's day and that helps them appreciate and understand all that he does to provide and care for his family.  It also provides a place for teaching and exampling good manners, both at table and in general.

Of course most of our meals are home cooked by me.  I love knowing the basis of our familiy's diet is real food. Dining out is a rare treat.
The Way to a Man's Heart is Through His Stomach

Last night I made chili, hand cut oven fries and rasberry danish - all homemade. My husband and sons raved about each dish which was so kind of them.  I always appreciate their praise and gratitude.  Early in our marriage, all I really knew how to cook had directions on the box, bag or package. In those days I would have used canned chili, frozen french fries and store bought danish.  But the extra work involved in giving them a good meal without preservatives and ingredients I can't pronounce is worth it to me.  And with a properly set up and stocked kitchen, it is not that time consuming.  Just takes a little planning.

A Set Table is a Welcoming Table

When I have time I like to set a nice table and put on a tablecloth, cloth napkins (homemade ones are easy and inexpensive to make) candles and flowers. Any centerpiece will do really.  When children are little, they can even choose the centerpiece - a stuffed animal, a few prized rocks on a pretty dish. The only limit is their imagination. Just a few simple items magically transform an ordinary evening into something special.  A special occasion is not required in order to sit down to a nicely set dinner table.

Preparing a nice meal your family will enjoy and setting the dinner table is a sure way to bring your family closer together and create memories that will last a lifetime.  Make or collect a few tablecloths, cloth napkins, candlesticks and vases and keep them clean and handy. I love the way a tablecloth feels when resting my arms on it at a meal. Glassware, cutlery and serving dishes have a more hushed tone when moved about as they fall on a cloth rather than the sharper sound of the bare table.  Setting out a tablecloth just puts a more important note on the family meal.

Quality Time vs. Quantity Time

If a family can't sit down together for dinner most nights, then I'd say their schedule needs to be adjusted to make it possible. It's that important. Research shows that kids who grow up eating together at the family table have been shown to get better nutrition and are better adjusted emotionally among other things. The modern talk about "quality time" spent with our children is a hoax designed to ease the consciences of those who spend mere minutes per day in face to face company with their children. All children need quantity time, without which there can be no quality.

The acts of keeping the home are so very important.  They are the foundation from which stability is produced in our children.  A mother at home, training, working, laughing and managing the home is a true comfort.  Those who grow up without that stability,find a hollowness inside that longs to be filled.  If that's you, you can fill it in your own home right now, today. 

So always keep in mind the extreme importance of your home atmosphere and environment and seek to make a pleasant one. It is creating and shaping who your children will turn out to be.  And what better way to end the day than a cozy meal together at your own table?

I'm excited to be adding an element of fun to our dinners this year with dinnertime conversation and quizzes.  I typed up several fun and interesting questions in microsoft word.  I cut each question to business card size and placed them in a little business card holder I bought from an office supply store.  Keeping it at the center of our table makes it easy to use during dinner.  I think these will be a lot of fun and stir up more interesting conversation for us all. There are also products available with ready made questions that you can buy or you could just think up some on your own.  I think it's more fun, though, to think up my own.

Whatever you do, I encourage you to make your family meal table something your family will look forward to anticipation and one day look back on with warm memories.

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