What's for Dinner?

May 21, 2014

How many times does your family eat together? Does it make a difference? 

Today’s fast-paced lifestyle does not encourage turning off the television and cell phones to spend a half hour with family. Articles on parenting give reasons for the importance of families eating together: creates bonds, instructs on manners, improves grades, saves money, gives healthy meals, and others.

What is so hard about eating a meal together? Try allowing one child to play a sport. When baseball season hits our family, we run every night of the school week. We fly out the door after inhaling meals, to race to practice, then rush to bed to repeat the next day. In addition to sports, we have eight people working different jobs and school activities. By the end of the week, I realize one meal was eaten together.

How do other families do it—with children in two or three school, sport or musical activities all year long? Most sports now push for year-round practices to ensure making the team.

How do we keep our families interacting during this chaotic schedule?

Surely as good parents we wouldn’t want to sacrifice developing our children’s skills and talents for the sake of eating together as a family.

But, what do we lose?

When my husband doesn’t eat with us, the atmosphere is different. He keeps it light, sharing news of the day. The boys tell what they have done. But when he is absent, the dinner table becomes a place to rehearse grievances against each other or start new ones. With great effort, I make dinner time, not a refueling of stomachs, but a refilling of soul and body. Most times, without his presence, I would rather make the children eat by themselves. I remind myself that I cannot.

(Just an interjection here) I also notice when my husband is deployed, I must remind myself that hot dogs are not one of the four food groups (much as my youngest would like it). Preparing healthy, satisfying meals should not be sacrificed because Dad is not home. (When my boys reached adolescence, I found it easier to remember to cook a meal not a ‘snack.’)

Again, what do we lose by not eating together?

Research shows that families who eat together for an evening meal five times a week have lower rates of smoking, drinking, drug abuse, depression or criminal activity. Yet for our children to be successful or at least to have a chance, we are driven to ‘schedule meal times,’ plan talks with our children, and set aside meal times.

Scriptures speak of this: “Teach (the words of the Lord) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers…” (Deuteronomy 11:19)

We sacrifice instructive time in the Bible for practice time for sports. Is the pay-off worth it? Each family must evaluate and chose. Quantity time cannot be sacrificed for just quality time. Instructing the Lord’s words in the minds of our children requires repetition, repetition, repetition. Many times that repetition is accomplished at dinner time when we discuss what they learn in school, what they do with their friends, what we see in society. We use those experiences to show application of Biblical principles. That is the teaching when “they sit and walk and lie down and get up” mentioned in Deuteronomy.

How do we do it in the midst of baseball season? Sometimes I just hang on and hope that they get it. Sometimes, I spend more time during the day with those left at home. Sometimes, I’m too tired and my husband reminds me that we cannot loose heart for those who are young. They do not learn by osmosis. I find no easy, simple, right answer.

Eating together is not the magic formula to make the words of the Lord real for your children. The command still states to instruct our children at all times. If I must stop everything to listen to what my children are hearing from the world so that I may teach what the Lord has for them, then I must ignore distractions (sports, musical, academic—good things) and listen with all my heart to help them to know the Lord. Good things distract from the best things. Keep your focus.

Dinner time---it’s not “What’s for dinner?” It’s what we learn at dinnertime that makes it so important.

When was the last time your family ate together?

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright @1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Displaying 1 comment

It's good to hear that I'm not the only one who felt they were losing it when it came to meal time togetherness. It's an effort, but worth it. I'm rather glad our kids weren't into sports, life was much simpler, but there's plenty of other distractions. Thanks for your posts, you're so real, and I can identify with what you say.

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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