Bring Back the Family Dinner

These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. – Deuteronomy 6:6-7

The fact that I grew up without a real sense of family has shaped me into a June Cleaver-esque woman. I don’t care if you call me old-fashioned or simply a traditionalist. Just call me in time for our family dinner.

Dinners were the highlight of our day as our kids were growing up, and the dinner menu was of prime concern to our hungry growing brood, who were never shy about requesting particular favorites.

My husband would come home about 6, so by no later than 4:30 I would drop everything and head to the kitchen to prepare a meal that would please me (an amateur gourmet), our children (professional gourmands) and my husband (the world’s reigning pickiest eater).

Our former pastor, my mother-in-law, church friends and out-of-town guests would frequent our table, where there was much eating, laughing, telling, sharing, counseling, comforting, confiding and general carousing.

The kids always liked having guests because that guaranteed dessert, and my desserts, in their estimation, were not to be missed. Dark chocolate cake, banana cake and angel food cake became lifelong family favorites. The appearance of one of these under my cake plate ensured clean plates at dinner.

Some nights, particularly as our children and the challenges they faced grew, dinner would take on a more somber tone. This was our family’s time of hashing out the issues facing us. The dinner table became our family conference table where we would lay ourselves bare, sharing struggles, longings, victories and, sometimes, secret crushes.

Much spiritual fodder has been served at our dinner table. Meals always began with a blessing and often were sprinkled with Scripture. Children were admonished and encouraged by God’s word as they provoked one another, complained, played with their food or sought advice.

I remember the night when my oven light blew up, shattering glass all over my entrée, and how we piled into the van and laughed about it at a local restaurant that night. I remember setting a place nightly for Mr. Bee, my son’s imaginary friend, who always came to the door at 5 p.m. and loved mashed potatoes that, oddly enough, my son ended up eating. I remember trying to eat while holding a newborn preemie, finding veggie-stuffed napkins, the weekly homemade pizza nights and the countless laughs we had at one another’s expense throughout the years. My husband, on the other hand, remembers the piles and piles of dirty dishes he would wash each night. (This agreement represents the full extent of our prenup.)

This time together was precious, especially for my husband, who worked two jobs and had limited time with our children. Was it convenient? No. I homeschooled 16 years and worked from home much of that time and had ministry responsibilities, so I definitely had enough to do without all the planning and preparation that went into every meal. But was it worth it? Without a doubt.

Our dinners together created a unique family dynamic, a bond I’m convinced we would not otherwise have. And it saddens me to see so many forgoing family meals out of convenience. It’s a lost opportunity that can never be regained or replaced.

Take the time to sit down as a family over dinner. Keep it simple if you have to. Years from now your kids won’t remember what you served. They’ll remember that you cared enough to make time with them. Trust me. Mine do.