Feeding More than Bellies

I’ll admit it. Dinner time stresses me out. I feel like I am running a full fledged restaurant in my kitchen. I am both chef and server. Rush here, rush there. Serve one, serve the other. By the time it’s my turn to eat, I’ve lost interest.

But there is something even more troubling, and that is, I haven’t been consistently gathering my brood around the dinner table. It’s disappointing.

While I understand the importance of having family meals together, it seems like an impossible feat lately. This nagging feeling about the dinner table and all that it represents won’t go away. The conviction is overwhelming. I fear that if I don’t get back on track there might be a lapse in communication.

I miss sharing good food and conversation with my family. It was our time to listen, laugh, or, cry. We had the unique opportunity to connect over the “highs” and “lows” throughout our day.

Gathering around the table is so much more than feeding children’s bellies. It’s nourishing their souls.

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32 Comments

  1. Amen! Well said! Soooo important! Hind sight is 20/20 but you are GETTING it now!!!! One step ahead of the game!

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    • I finally get it. Now I just have to supplicate. Consistency will be key in fostering family togetherness. Thank you for sharing your insight.

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  2. Very interesting observation… Is it because of our time? Because we are not stressed just to survive? A time of aplenty? I learned my grandfather had ALL the children sit at the altar first (he was Buddhist), do chanting, then they would sit for dinner together. Why is it we cannot these days? Great observation once again.

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    • You’re right. We are so busy going from one thing to the next, that we neglect to carve out time for sharing a family meal. It is no longer a priority. We could all practice learning to be still more often.

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  3. I’ve fallen off the track too before. It’s hard getting back into a routine. I require at least 3 family dinners a week…and at least ONE of those dinners has to be a dinner containing something EVERYONE will eat (a challenge).

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  4. That’s a great idea, shooting for 3 family dinners a week instead of 7. I could start small. You just reduced my stress level by 40 percent!

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  5. Eating dinner together at the table is important, but don’t be too hard on yourself, stuff happens! Try to aim for one meal a week and see how you go.

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    • Good advice. Baby steps. Aiming for 1-3 meals at the dinner table is more realistic. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Agree to the above. 3 good family meals are better than 7 stressed out ones! Little steps is key. Luckily its only a phase. And all the good work you are doing now (even if it feels like crazyland) will show in years to come when you are able to sit down with grown kids enjoying a slow meal with great conversation, because you early on made it a part of the way your family works ;-)

    Reply
    • Maybe it really is about quality versus quantity. Sometimes I do feel like I’m “crazyland” trying to hurry through all my to-do’s for the day. Perhaps I need to slow down and enjoy the small stuff more.

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  7. Oh, we never have meals together! It’s just impossible, with the way our family is structured and the hours my husband works. I never worry about it. We spend other ways together. :)

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    • Guess I need to curb the guilt and just do what works best. Thanks for the encouragement.

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  8. I have 4 kids, 10 — 14 years of age, and I handle dinners. Dinnertime is hectic and difficult, but it must be placed into the proper perspective. The meal itself is the least of it, the important part is spending the time with the kids, demonstrating that regardless of how busy your life is, you make the time to be with them, to teach them, and yes, to learn from them.

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    • Your right. The focus should definitely be on gathering your children and cultivating relationships with them. It is a matter of prioritizing. Thank you for sharing.

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  9. Cynthia Matos-Medina

     /  October 3, 2012

    I can relate with all you say in this post. I grew up in a Island (Dominican Republic) and every day we would seat at the table and have lunch together. Lunch is the big meal of the day over there. I grew up, talking about our days and plans as we had a daily family meal. Today I can’t gather my family of four for dinner at the table. between kids’ bed time and dad’s workout time, how can I accomplish a family dinner? I fear exactly the same thing you do. But maybe we can use other moments and places to engage in family communication. Sometimes we have a moment on our bed, where we all gather and talk for a few minutes or the car while driving on a Saturday. We just have to make it work ;) Thanks for sharing your reality.

    Reply
    • Glad to hear that I’m not the only one having anxiety over family meals. Like you said, it seems like a monumental task to gather four around the table. But you gave me a fresh perspective on the “gathering place.” I guess it doesn’t matter where you gather as long as you share moments together.

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  10. I think having a few meaningful meals together is much better and more memorable than hurridly eating together every night just for the sake of eating together to fulfill the American Dream.

    Why not do a crockpot meal or two and freeze the leftovers (big pot of soup can go a long way). Then, plan a night where you can bust out the already frozen meal and enjoy time together.

    I also think you are right on with finding other family moments…playing games, crafting, going for walks, all are ways for people to connect and don’t have to involve the family dinner table. Heck, even going out to eat can create those memories! I remember getting treated to Pizza Hut when I had read so many books, and the conversation and time spent there was memorable, and rare, and longer lasting than rushed family meals where mom was stressed.

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    • Funny that you mention the crockpot because I am HUGE fan. I use it 3x’s week, a total time saver. I like the suggestion you made about being able to make memories anywhere. Once you carve out time for the family, I’m sure the setting isn’t as important as everyone having fun together. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. I agree. I feel saddened that our dinner table ends up in family arguments rather than family lurrrve. Fussy eaters, sibling rivalry, rushing to be somewhere – it’s certainly not the idealogical ‘gathering’ I envisaged.

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  12. Dinner time might not ever be ideal nor will it probably ever be sans melt-downs, but at least we are making an effort. Maybe our kids will walk away with some decent memories. Let’s hope.

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  13. Meals together are important, but if it can’t be dinner, make it something else. Can everyone have breakfast together? Just make sure to get everyone around the table together. It’s important. And I agree, a few nights a week is great. Push for it if you can. It may be hard now, but it will pay off later.

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    • I think you’re spot on when you say my efforts “will pay off later.” While I’m in the midst of the chaos it’s difficult to see a return on my investment, but I hope to see a payout in the future. That is, I hope to have successfully fostered close relationships with my children. I guess I just got to keep on keeping on. Thanks for your timely advice.

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  14. I’ve heard some people say eating breakfast as a family is actually easier. I don’t think it matters when you gather around the table so long as you do your best to do so as consistently as you can. . .At least that’s what I’m hoping . . . :)

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    • I hear that gathering for breakfast is easier too. Must try it. Definitely think I can make it happen on the weekends. And you’re right, consistency seems to be the key in developing family togetherness.

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  15. We are guaranteed one family meal a week. Sunday dinner at my parents house. It’s nice living in the same city as them. We have only sat at our dinner table at home as a family 1 time. Then it became the area where all our stuff got piled up. Little man’s highchair is in the family room and Daddy and I eat on the couch. I have told him now that the table is cleared and we can actually sit at the table that we are going to start eating there. The only meal we can eat together is the middle of the day one. It’s become at late lunch, early dinner type of meal. I use my slow cooker all the time esp during the summer. I think one thing I’m lucky in is that little man is still so little that he’s not got stuff going on and we can adjust our schedule to daddys.

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    • Sunday dinners at grandma’s house? Love the idea. We are in close proximity to our family too. I’m sure they would sign up to share a family meal together. Sounds like a winner!

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  16. We are so lucky to have the luxury of having lunch and dinner together, not every night but enough that we get some good quality family time. You are absolutely right, its definitely about more than just feeding bellies. Do what it takes to make this happen, like someone else said already, 3 is better than none!
    hope its working out for you!

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    • You are very fortunate to share both lunch and dinner together. After reading everyone’s input, I have successfully been able to schedule three meals at the table. It is so worth committing to!

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  17. We have lunch together every day. Sometimes, it stresses me out (a lot), when children don’t want to eat, or start to laugh with no reason, or when they drop everything… Actually, none of those things matters, you know… If I just let it be and just enjoy being together, it’s time to nourish my own soul, and theirs, as consequence. ;)
    Thanks for visiting my blog!

    Reply
    • Not wanting to eat can be a huge source of stress. I have a three year old who is very finicky during meal times. But like you said, it’s more about the gathering and togetherness than anything else!

      Reply

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