Saturday, February 26, 2011

At the table

Recently a new blog was recommended to me, and I love reading many of the post. Emily over at a Beautiful Life, challenges us to pay attention the the family meal, make it a sacred moment in our days.
I am not certain if I could post something at the moment that would fit the wonderful example. But we do strive to make the family meal a special and God honouring time. Of course being me, I will have to mention the challenges as well. Challenges like.. having children actually sit down at the meal.
But let's not start with that. Let's start with the meal itsself. We eat as a family in the evening, all together around the table. For a while we let things go and ended up eating in the living room together, but it just felt wrong. Besides, we ended up watching tv while eating instead of spending time really together.
Now the big challenge for me is that both of my children are very young, and very active. Joseph is three and a half, and time to sit still is, in his opinion, wasted time. Unless he is playing with his trains, I guess. Michael just turned one, so the main challenge is to make sure he eats and does not just toss all the food on the floor, while squeeling for his cup. While Michael eats just about anything, Joseph is going through a phase in which five bites is about
I used to have visions of wonderfully balanced conversations around the dinner table in which we all tell about our days and talk about edifying things. At the moment, dinner conversation is a litany of 'please sit down, sweetie." "Joseph, please wait till your mouth is empty before speaking." While either my husband or I need to get up three or four times a meal, no matter how many things we try and put on the table, trying to anticipate the children's needs.
On the other hand... if I did not go through these training years now, how big is the chance that when they turn twelve, I can turn around and say; "Okay, from now on we will all spend family time sitting and eating serenely together" and I can expect them to have table manners, inteligent conversation, and a desire to spend the time with us?

So, at this young age, we muddle through. We pray before mealtimes, in English and in Dutch. The prayers are short, but by now my oldest son knows them, and my youngest son recognizes them. Dada asks questions to Joseph, like: so what did you do today? The answers are commonplace, since our days are simple. We went to the grocery store. To the park. We played with the sand. And I provide humourous comments, by filling in the details.
While I love beautiful tablecloths and candlesticks, right now they would form another challenge to stop the children from pulling it, spilling tomato sauce on it before the first bite has been taken and an extra temptation for me to get upset at not having my quiet haven of well behaved conversation and serene prayer.
Before I get there, I believe I need to go through this phase of family meal time with training wheels on. We see progress, as we manage to keep our oldest boy at the table longer each day. We do not squabble anymore about whether he wants to eat what is on his plate. He will eat it or not, but not receive anything else. It's a challenge at the moment, but I hope that in a few years, I will be able to savour the fruit of our mealtime prayers, admonitions not to speak with the mouth full, and homecooked meals, in having a family happily gathered around the table, talking, praying and celebrating meals together.

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