I know you all have been waiting on pins and needles for the third and final installment of taking back mealtime. Sorry, I’ve been knee deep in trying to get ready for the new school year. Anyway, in part one, we talked about the whys of taking back our family mealtime. You can read the post here if you missed it and want to catch up. In part two, we covered planning and preparation. You can find it here. Today, we’re going into the trenches — the real nitty gritty of our mealtime.
Letting everyone know of your expectations is really important. Mealtimes are mandatory in our home. The best planned mealtimes are of no value if no one shows up. Of course there are always exceptions, but the general rule is – you are at the table for breakfast and dinner unless you clear it ahead with mom and dad – having to work, okay, playing with friends, not okay. We had total grumbling when we started this one. Now, no big deal. Remember, you are the parent. You get to decide what is best for your kids. Mealtimes are what’s best for us.
We set the table. Sometimes the setting is nicer than others, but setting the table reminds the kids that sharing a meal together is important. You are important. My mom lived alone for several years after all the kids moved out of the house, but she always set the table for herself. I love my mom for that and for so many other reasons.
I never met my paternal grandfather — Grandpa Don. He died before I was born. My grandmother didn’t talk about him much, but there is one thing I do remember her saying about him and that was that he didn’t eat, he dined. In our home, we dine, we don’t eat.
It’s not uncommon for meals to last two hours in our home when nothing else is pressing, not because we have so much food on the table, but because we talk throughout the meal, and we continue to talk long after the meal is over. There are a few rules that we go by – we don’t talk over others, we don’t whisper at the table, and we take turns. No phones at the table, period. If the phone rings we don’t answer it (unless it may be one of the kids calling, in that case we see who is calling and answer it if need be, otherwise, it can wait).
It’s amazing what can be discussed when you actually talk. We learn what the kids did at school, what they are being taught, who likes who and who did what. We talk of everything from current events to our ancestors, politics to religion. Our children are going to learn values, the question is whose values are they going to learn. Our values cannot be learned unless they are taught and the dinner table is the perfect place to teach them.
As moms (and dads too for that matter), it’s really easy to get caught up on the day to day realities of our lives, but there is a whole world out there affecting everything we hold dear. One of the things that I like to do is a quick review of the big headlines of the day. The Drudge Report is awesome for that. Our discussions have frequently led to the kids jumping on the computer to learn more about a given topic. In addition, some of our best family home evening lessons have taken place during dinner.
The changes we made took time. It’s funny, when we first started down this road we told the kids they needed to ask to be excused from the table. They thought it was absolute torture when we said no. Now, I find that it’s usually me or Greg that says, okay, time to clean up or time to start the day.
One of the other things we really like to do is invite people over to share a meal with us. Breakfast, dinner, doesn’t matter. Start small, invite some missionaries over. Invite a new family that just moved into the neighborhood, a co-worker. We have made eternal friendships through this simple act. In addition, your children will have a chance to truly practice their manners and hosting skills. I love that my kids ask our guests if they would like something to drink as soon as they come in without being prompted (most of the time anyway). They know how to carry on a dinner conversation and ask questions. I like my kids and all, but they are nothing super special – they have just had practice.
As I’ve said all along, things are not always perfect. I am not always perfect. Sometimes, my kids have a pre-breakfast snack of peanuts and raisins and then eat reheated pancakes while watching Ultimate Cat, their favorite documentary on big cats, as I finish up a church assignment. Once in a blue moon, we actually stop off at Little Caesars on the way home – not that Thomas doesn’t ask every time we pass it. More often than not our meals are also filled with — “elbows off the table, finish what’s in your mouth before you speak, and napkins in your lap.”
I want to close out this series with a couple of quotes. This first one is from Elder Richard G. Scott during this past General Conference.
“Many voices from the world in which we live tell us we should live at a frantic pace. There is always more to do and more to accomplish. Yet deep inside each of us is a need to have a place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail, a place where we can reset, regroup, and reenergize to prepare for future pressures.
The ideal place for that peace is within the walls of our own homes, where we have done all we can to make the Lord Jesus Christ the centerpiece” (For Peace at Home, April 2013).
Here’s the whole talk if you’re interested. It’s a good one.
And one more from President James E. Faust from his talk in the October 1990 Conference.
”As societies as a whole have decayed and lost their moral identity and so many homes are broken, the best hope is to turn greater attention and effort to the … next generation—our children… Somehow, some way, we must try harder to make our homes stronger so that they will stand as sanctuaries against the unwholesome, pervasive moral dry rot around us. Harmony, happiness, peace, and love in the home can help give children the required inner strength to cope with life’s challenges. Barbara Bush, wife of President George Bush, a few months ago said to the graduates of Wellesley College:
“’But whatever the era, whatever the times, one thing will never change: Fathers and mothers, if you have children, they must come first. You must read to your children and you must hug your children and you must love your children. Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House but on what happens inside your house.’” (Washington Post, 2 June 1990, p. 2.)
Thanks to Katie at Live Craft Eat we have this quote in our front room. It fills me with hope and reminds me of my great responsibility.
Whether you are young or old, living by yourself or with others, just starting out or feel like things are wrapping up, you can make your home a refuge from the world. I promise you that making mealtime a priority will allow the Spirit of the Lord to touch all who are in your home in very real and positive ways.