The Family that Eats Together…

The picture at left hangs on our kitchen wall. It is an inexpensive print we found at a discount store, but it’s a cheery country scene, and I like it. It provides things to talk about with Emmy, and when she gets older, I’ll make up stories about the little characters therein.

While we’ve made our share of mistakes as parents over the years, one thing I think we’ve done right can be summed up in two words: family dinner.

Several studies have revealed the importance of this simple family ritual in the lives of young people. I read about one study in 2005 and more recently, one released this summer that underscored how important family meals are, not only for the physical heath of young people, but emotional health as well.

For some families, work schedules don’t always make this possible every night. But it is worth it when you can. It is a rare evening when we don’t all sit down, even if it’s just fish sticks and tater tots on the table. It isn’t the food involved as much as it is the conversation, the emotional connection and the sharing of our lives for that window of time. (Although good food certainly helps.)

Family meals are also a training ground for good manners (we’re still working on that one with a certain teenager.) No, don’t make a boarding house reach for the ketchup, no, don’t talk with your mouth full, use your napkin, etc. Dinner time together is the primary place to teach gratefulness for our daily bread. Emmy is learning her first prayers. She folds her hands and says, “Thank you, God for EVERYTHING. Amen.” The older children learned this prayer:

The eyes of all look to You, 0 Lord, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these Your gifts which we receive from Your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen

Best of all is the conversation. William has a challenging physics class this year, and he filled up the conversation last night holding forth on some physics concepts that went right over my head, something about why rocket engines work in a vacuum, and something to do with “point of reference.” I didn’t catch it all in between helping Emily with her pasta, but it was very interesting and went down well with our chicken parmesan and garlic bread.

Some of the biggest laughs have taken place at the table. Some of it, admittedly, has gone overboard. I’ll never forget one memorable dinner when all five children were arrayed around the table. One of the toddlers took a sudden, violent dislike to the bean and ham soup, some chaos ensued, and good-natured Tom had to restore order amid lots of humor. The scene was hardly out of Miss Manners, but a rollicking good time was had by all. I hope my children remember some of these times, I sure will!

More than anything, family meals are about nurture and relationships. Even if it’s only a frozen pizza (I’m letting all my culinary shortcomings be known here, sigh) the familiar faces around the table, together again after a day, either a good one or a bad one, are a great comfort in this ever changing world. Here’s a recipe everyone should have. You can serve this one up anytime at a family meal!

A pound of patience, you must find
Mixed well with loving words, so kind
Drop in 2 pounds of helpful deeds
And thoughts of other people’s needs.

A pack of smiles, to make the crust,
Then stir and bake it well you must.
And now, I ask that you may try,
The recipe of Sunshine Pie.

~Unknown

God bless my little kitchen
I love its every nook
And bless me as I do my work
Wash pots and pans and cook.
And may the meals that I prepare
Be seasoned from above
With Thy great blessing and Thy grace
But most of all Thy love.
As we partake our earthly food
The table before us spread
We’ll not forget to thank Thee, Lord
Who gives us daily bread.
So bless my little kitchen, Lord
And those who enter in
May they find naught but joy and peace
And happiness therein.

19 thoughts on “The Family that Eats Together…

  1. Jeanne Bourgeois says:

    Meals together are important .I am trying to get my 1 year old grandson to pray. He isnt as receptive as our granddaughter was. She is 8 years now and we always have fireside chats about God when she stays overnight. Thanks Ingrid I am addicted to your blog. Very Grateful Jeanne B

  2. Christina says:

    Ingrid, I have to admit, I really like your kitchen. Beautiful style and very cozy. One of the things I remember most is this picture (and apples?)
    We always make sure we sit at the dinner together as a family. I dont think we have thought of it any other way. It gets hectic at times and loud but we are together. There are times when Andy works late and its just me and the kids but we are there at the table, same time, and eating and sharing together. Thanks for this post.

    PS No shame on the food, I think we all do it too šŸ˜‰

  3. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Thanks, Christina. You’re from the same school of “cozy kitchens” as I am then! I know the apple theme wouldn’t cut it on HGTV with their snooty designers and their stainless steel counters or whatever the latest thing is, but to me, if a kitchen isn’t cozy, well, then it isn’t a home at all. It sure doesn’t cost much to make a kitchen cozy either. I got the nicest red and white checked tablecloth from Target and a matching valance. The tablecloth comes out of the drier like new. I did used to have matching cushions for the chairs, but because of being used so much, the ties didn’t last. The apple decorations I found at a rummage sale because the lady was getting rid of her apple theme kitchen. (She must have been watching those designers šŸ˜‰ !)

  4. Lori Glass says:

    Fish sticks and tater tots remind of when I was a child my mom made that meal sometimes too. Cozy kitchens are best. We usually eat together too. I put my fall decorations up in the kitchen and living room Tuesday. Still need to get some pumkins and gourds from the farmers market. Fall is a cozy time of year.

  5. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Lori, my mom would make the little packets of tarter sauce included in the fish stick box. Can still see her adding the mayonnaise. Memories. šŸ™‚

  6. Jessica says:

    I love this post. We are just starting the busyness of living in our house. I am learning to plan dinner a little earlier so Clint get out the door to Bible study on Tues., Owen & Clint to AWANA on Wed., and me to Bible study on Thurs. It is important. We are a family. Some days it is our only real concentrated time all to together. To me it says, we are a family and our family is important enough to set aside time to fellowship over a meal. My mom and dad always made dinner a must. Some of my best times growing up were around our table. – Jess

  7. Marilyn says:

    Your blog is like a daily mini vacation. I am amidst a new lifestyle with working FT on the weekends and going back to school, presently taking Anatomy and Physiology. Thanks for the reminder of what really makes me tick and that is being busy at home, taking care of my family. I am so, so grateful to have a home and family which bring me comfort and provides a soft spot for me to fall daily. I know many in the world do not have that luxury. I printed both of the poems you shared, laminated and hung in my kitchen. I will try to send you the attachments so you can use if you would like. Also I love the picture you shared–love that style of art. I have many jigsaw puzzles in that style.

  8. Lisa Green Kentala says:

    Even those of us who love to cook don’t always make fancy dinners! Tater tots and frozen chicken tenders happen all too often.
    I am in somewhat agreement with you over the current kitchen trend – whoever decided black granite counters, stainless steel appliances and wood go together? I have nostalgic memories of sunny yellow being the right look for kitchens! My husband plans to paint and revamp our kitchen at some point, and while we haven’t decided on colors or style we know it won’t be the “trendy” look!

  9. Lori Glass says:

    Last night my husband and 2 teenage sons sat for an hour and a half retelling hunting stories at the table. They would not have spent that time together if we hadn’t eaten at the table.:)

  10. Becky says:

    Wednesday evening meals at our house, before prayer meeting, hot dogs, mac and cheese. Fast and easy for my Mom.

    Sunday dinner at home holds a lot of memories for me. Being a PK my Dad usually made visits through the week; but Sunday dinner was our family meal time together. Mom and I would hurry home to get the potatoes mashed and everything served up by the time Dad got home from church.

    When I grew up, got a job and moved away homesickness always kicked in on Sunday afternoon. Good memories though.

    Now I long for the Marriage Supper with the Lord. I wonder what that will be like? šŸ™‚

  11. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Exactly, Becky. I grew up with Sunday dinner, usually a roast, but after I married Tom, I never got him to change his Sunday ritual. He went to early service his whole life, then came home and ate breakfast. I tried implementing the Sunday roast thing, but it never worked. We went to late service because of the children and how difficult it was to get everybody out the door by 7:30 am. So when we got home, it was lunch time. Not for Tom. He arrays the table with his numerous cereal boxes. So I went with a local tradition. The German and Polish delicatessens here all sell hot ham and rolls on Sunday–a Milwaukee tradition still in force. (When we moved to Greenville, I was in shock. No HOT HAM ON SUNDAYS?!) So Tom eats breakfast at 1pm and we all have hot ham and rolls. Sometimes, you just have to compromise. šŸ˜‰ When we lived down south, they didn’t even slice ham or cold cuts ahead of time. The deserted deli would have one sleepy person on duty on Sunday with all the ham wrapped up. You had to slice it to order. Here they have mountains of turkey and beef and cheese and all kinds of potato salads ready to go. Love that German influence. (And don’t get me started on bakeries down south. In McAllen, TX I went into withdrawal for the bakeries up here!)

  12. Kris says:

    I thought I put in a comment the other day. I’m losing it. Anyway I’ll do it
    today. The family that eats together stays together. That’s what this world
    needs a little more of these days. Always a great time to converse.
    Remember The Cleavers (I’m dating myself). Barbara Billingsley would be in
    her pearls and dress and Ward would come to the table in shirt and tie.
    Conversation was the main objective at their table. It just doesn’t exist any
    longer and that’s too bad. You need the interaction amongst family members. And of course prayers before to thank the Lord for the food
    placed before us. Another great post Ing…love, Kris
    P.S. Sorry it took so long. My intentions were good.

  13. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Kris, you commented on the Hope Blog update post the other day, that might have been the one you were remembering! Ah, Barbara Billingsley, that paragon of American motherhood. I remember one episode where she was wearing this beautiful dress and she told the boys, “I have to go change because I’m going to school for a conference.” I laughed at the thought of changing from a dress into a suit to go talk with a teacher. These days we’re lucky to see people out of their pajamas and slippers in public. Talk about swinging the other direction in a society! I still watch the Cleaver re-runs when I fold laundry sometimes. That era is one of my favorites in women’s clothes.

  14. Lisa Green Kentala says:

    I too LOVE the early 60s for womens clothing. I was born in 1955 so I remember my mother dressing up to go anywhere other than the corner store – even Kiddieland – the local amusement park! Hats and gloves were common when I was very young. However I don’t remember any mom cleaning the house in pearls like June Cleaver. I loved Leave It To Beaver when I was young and remember my mom saying “how can Mrs. Cleaver vacuum in a dress and heels?” I marvel how honestly LITB portrayed children relating to the adult world – it’s not about punch lines and jokes.

  15. Judi says:

    Oh, Ingrid!!! Cold cereal boxes arrayed on the table for Sunday dinner?!!!! THAT would be a small sorrow!!!…I grew up in a parsonage in a rural area, and Sundays in that community were always about hospitality. We always had church friends over for dinner, or were in someone’s home ourselves for dinner. My brother moved back to that community when he married, but sadly it’s not that way there anymore either. I love the femininity of womens clothes from the early 60s too. They were flattering too!

  16. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Yes, Judi, it’s a minor outrage, but, what can you do?! It’s not like he wouldn’t change if I pressed it, but I couldn’t justify all the work if he didn’t enjoy it. He’s a cereal maniac. That’s why he’s in such good shape, I guess, all that whole grain whatever. He eats a lot of the healthy kind, but seriously, give me a roast and mashed potatoes and gravy at Sunday noon. Now my poor kids will be piling their Sunday dinner tables high with cereal some day. *sigh* I seriously tried here…

  17. Lorrie says:

    Great article, Ingrid, plus I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments. My mother had a copy of that second poem (Bless My Little Kitchen, Lord) cut out of a magazine or newspaper and posted in our kitchen through my growing-up years. I gradually memorized it as I did the dishes (no electric dishwasher). I, too, loved Leave it to Beaver, and my father’s boyhood home was very much like Beaver’s (he had one older brother, so I guess that made Daddy ‘the Beaver’ :-). I also loved Father Knows Best… the mothers and women in general were so feminine and lovely.

    I’m from Atlanta but live in SC now and you’re right… hot ham for Sunday lunch?? What’s that all about? LOL Down here the tradition is fried chicken & biscuits!

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