Parenting

Wonderful things can happen at the supper table

I am guessing your family is a lot like ours.  Family suppers have changed as our children have gone from infancy to the elementary and teen years. I want to talk about the power of family supper and some ways we can make time around the table fun and meaningful.

What Stage is Your Family Supper?

Our early family dinners often consisted of me attempting to eat while nursing.  This feat involved me behaving like an octopus.  People will tell you losing the baby weight comes from nursing.  I say it came from the fact that only one in ten bites actually made it into my mouth in those days.  We then entered what I like to call the “County Fair” stage of suppers.  Picture pie eating contest, but with a six-month-old and noodles or mashed fruit.  The toddler years brought on the “Showdown in the Wild West.”  We would take our stances and draw our weapons over peas, broccoli or squash.  Eat your veggies, Lil’ Pardner or it’s the stockade for you.  In the preschool years, we transitioned to “Taming the Savage Beast.”  Table manners became the focus of every gathering as well as the introduction of such marvelous inventions as the napkin and the fork.

Family Suppers go through Stages

photo courtesy of tanaphong toochinda

 

Over time our family grew.  We started engaging in conversations and even devotions at the table.  We had rituals for connecting at meals.  Like most of you, sports and music involvements started staking claims on our supper time.  Afternoons consisted of driving around to errands and practices, which meant less available cooking time.  Evenings often included games, performances or ministry in the community.  Bottom line, more nights than not we either ate something quick around the TV or we ate in a scattered parade through the kitchen.  Our family table became the most neglected piece of furniture in the house.

A Season Without Supper

At the height of our supperless season, both boys were enrolled in Tae Kwon Do.  To say they loved it would be an understatement.  Studio time was nightly at 6:00 or 6:30 pm.   We took Thursdays off but had youth group and other ministries instead.  Our dinner time was completely gobbled up by our commitment to martial arts. 

photo by patty scott

 

One Sunday our pastor mentioned the family supper during a sermon.  He emphasized the importance of consistency and gathering together – even of opening our homes to others to share a meal.  I left church with new resolve.  We would never regret missing Tae Kwon Do like we would lament having lost our family connection over meals.  We pulled the boys out that week.  

The boys were sad for a while.  Anytime we drove past the area of town near the Dojo (studio), they would say things like, “I wonder if we will ever do Tae Kwon Do again.”  We explained that our family chose best over good. 

Time together sharing a meal is just that important.  

What’s Cooking, Mama?

Having reclaimed the supper hour, I now have a timer that goes off every day at 4:30 pm reminding me to start cooking.  I plan my meals for the week each Sunday.  We don’t always eat amazing and complicated dishes.  My philosophy is that the occasional pizza shared around the TV while we laugh and snuggle on couches can be just as meaningful as a brisket with potatoes and lemon butter asparagus at the table. 

photo by pexels

 

Sometimes we moms try to complicate things with unreasonable standards.  If cooking from scratch makes gathering at the table impossible, buy some pre-made meals for a few times a week or cook ahead to make things convenient.  If you want some resources to help you think through what to cook and how to make supper easy-peasy, try some of my favorites: 

  • Dinner: A Love Story – Jenny is devoted to helping you get dinner on the table and so much more
  • Mel’s Kitchen Cafe – Mel is a mom of five who started her blog to share recipes with family – and you   

Kids in the Kitchen

Another key is to get your children involved in the cooking.  If you start this early in their lives, they are more likely to stick with it later.  That said, my oldest never enjoyed cooking and now that he’s in his teens, he wants to learn so he doesn’t live strictly on Ramen when he moves out.  We have used Raddish to give us a nudge towards the boys being included in cooking.  Also, we have ordered Blue Apron in the past.  You might want to check out these blogs for some fun ideas about including kids in the kitchen:

Three Key Ingredients

Once you’ve planned your meals and have cooked at home you need a game plan for what to do around the table.  Be sure to include a few key ingredients to make memories and tie your heartstrings together as a family.  I’m going to suggest the three we incorporate and you can pick and choose what fits your family.  Don’t give up if these don’t work the first go round.  We’ve had devotions where a referee seemed to be needed.  Sometimes our sharing was bo-ring.  It’s okay.  Press on mama.  Your commitment will pay off in time.  

photo by pexels

 

{I don’t need to say “no screens at the table,” so I’m not going to say that here.  If for some reason you know a family where this is an issue, you can suggest they have a basket they pass to collect all electronics at the start of the meal.  Not your family, I know.  Another family.} 

  1. Start the meal with a prayer.  If you want to add a short devotion, please do.  
  2. Make it fun.  A great resource for this is to use table talk cards or gather some ideas like –>  these from the six-o-clock scramble.
  3. Share something meaningful.  Our family often shares our “highs/lows” from the day, three things we are grateful for, or a “God sighting” (where we saw God move in our life or someone else’s life that day).

Once you have a family supper habit established, start planning to include others regularly.  One of our goals this year is to share our table with friends more often. 

The benefits of a family supper are numerous.  I hope you gather together soon and often.  You will never regret time spent together around your table.  

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Dani Muñoz
    January 3, 2018 at 12:46 PM

    LOVED this! Totally relate to the eating stages you shared and want to commit to more “together” and God-focused meals.

    • Reply
      Patty
      January 3, 2018 at 12:57 PM

      Yay, Dani! I totally support you in doing this. For me it took setting my timer, shutting everything down at 4:30 daily and committing my time from 4:30-8:00 to being present during and after supper. It has made a world of difference. I don’t know if you are like me, but in case you are, cut yourself slack for when this falls short of your dream vision. Just keep pursuing it. I’d love to hear how it goes. Also, we are starting an FB group (a friend and I) in a few weeks called “The Intentional Motherhood Community” where we can all encourage one another towards things like this – to loving intentionally while making room for what matters most. If you want to be included, just let me know and I’ll be sure to let you know once the group is up and running. Blessings on your family table.

  • Reply
    Bella Easterbrook
    January 3, 2018 at 2:09 PM

    Growing up, we always sat at the table to eat dinner together (except on Fridays when we were allowed to eat in front of the tv). That’s something I definitely want to pass on to my own kids.

  • Reply
    Patty
    January 3, 2018 at 6:39 PM

    Bella, that is just perfect. We ate around the table growing up too. We also didn’t have all this formal stuff available for kids as much, or somehow it was after school and not during supper. I think society was structured to protect family time. Nothing was open on Sundays, the TV shut down after 9pm … it was a different world. We have to be more skilled at being the guardians of our family time now. I’m so glad to hear your commitment to this. Thank you for sharing here.

  • Reply
    Renee
    January 4, 2018 at 10:43 AM

    I insist that everyone eat with someone! My husband often comes home well after dinner time and someone sits with him or maybe having second dinner.

    Always say grace and show gratitude. We get most of our food from a local farm and say a special prayer for the family.

    We also have celebration Sunday where we celebrate each other and ourselves.

    I like be your ideas.

    • Reply
      Patty
      January 4, 2018 at 11:10 AM

      Renee,
      You inspire me. To be able to prioritize the connection and relationships with this varied schedule shows your commitment to family. I love that you have access to local farm food. I love the idea of your Sunday celebration! We do that in our family meeting (not at a meal) where we share something we appreciate about each member of the family. It’s a sweet thing to hear the things that are said during that time. Keep it up!

  • Reply
    jdiibon
    January 4, 2018 at 3:16 PM

    I like the idea of setting the timer and focusing your attention on what it is important. It is so easy and often that we continue with work or personal things when we can be forming great relationships with our children; all around that supper table!

    • Reply
      Patty
      January 4, 2018 at 4:34 PM

      Jordan,

      Thank you so much for affirming this. I truly need that timer. It’s so easy to stay on Facebook or keep writing for my blog or whatever else. I have been spending time after the food is in the oven (if it’s an “oven” meal) playing a board game with my son or reading a book together while we wait for supper to cook. The idea of setting that whole block of time aside – to cook, spend time together, eat and then be together until bedtime is so meaningful. I have loved it. I need those lines drawn – time to stop everything and focus on family – so that my life reflects my deepest values. Speaking of which, the timer just rang! … supper’s on. Thanks for reading and I would love to hear how this goes for you as you practice it in your family. We’ll be starting the new FB group: The Intentional Motherhood Community” on Jan 15, if you want to join us. It will be a place to encourage one another in habits just like this.

  • Reply
    sarahbraden
    January 5, 2018 at 10:33 AM

    It is such a struggle to protect the dinner table time, but we have seen it be such a blessing in our family’s life. Thank you for sharing these practical tips!

    • Reply
      Patty
      January 5, 2018 at 10:51 AM

      Sarah, thank you for sharing the blessing it has been for you! I know it is not an easy thing to make sure we all gather. I so appreciate you chiming in. We all can use the voice of another mom saying, “This works!” You are welcome here anytime. I hope to encourage you as a mom!

  • Reply
    Marsha
    January 6, 2018 at 7:46 PM

    We have supper together regularly, but I love the ideas for making it more meaningful. Getting everyone to the table can be our most chaotic time of day because everyone is in the same room and often talking or fussing all at once. I’d love to make it intentionally more peaceful and memorable.

    • Reply
      Patty
      January 7, 2018 at 12:37 PM

      Marsha, I love your heart for this. I’m wondering if you can “enlist” some of those talking and fussing, giving them some ownership in the process. Having one to one conversations or even whole family discussions – how can we make this time more fun and special? Maybe even designating one member to “direct” a given supper and then rotating that responsibility. My husband often refers to the table as a “sacred time” and has told our boys this repeatedly. (Sometimes this is right after someone has burped loudly! … boys!) … I would love to hear what you do and how it works out. We sputter along in these things – implementing our vision with all the chaos that is family. In retrospect, though, much is gained. I’m so grateful you were here and you shared your desire for this. Please touch base again.

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