Listen as I struggled to gather my crew every night for a family meal.
“Oh good, you’re done barn chores. Perfect timing; dinner is almost ready.”
“Two more minutes, everybody!”
“Joseph I’ll help after we eat, okay?”
“Mary, please run up and open Jean’s door and shut off the music.”
‘Dinner is ready!”
“Grace, I know you love that book sweetheart but, remember, no reading at the dinner table.”
“Honey would you lift up Daniel into the high chair?”
“Are we all here? Anyone missing?”
Ah, dinner time in a large family.
Dinner was the highlight of the day with everyone clamoring to share their news or simply squeeze in comments into the cacophony of voices. It was a humorous symphony which sounded perfectly in tune to my ears. High pitched baby squeals combined with loud, boisterous little boys.and the quavering of a male teen voice balanced teenage girl’s chatter. Dad’s reassuring bass tones soothed my shrill calls for everyone to listen to the toddler’s newest word. The highlight of this often unruly symphony was the spontaneous laughter punctuating the entire meal.
Life around the dinner table was relaxed and happy because I allowed my children to behave in age appropriate ways. I did not demand adult perfection. The consequences of this decision were messy but well worth the time it took to mop up after meal time. It meant I did not shovel neat, tidy mouthfuls of food into a toddler because we let little people feed themselves as soon as they reached for the spoon. It meant including three-year olds in meal prep, sending five and six-year olds running out to the garden for vegetables and allowing a ten-year old to make the dessert. In other words we valued participation over a neat and tidy kitchen and orderly meal times.
Now I am reaping the rewards of decisions which sent some visitors into sputtering, spirals of incredulity as they eyed my kitchen and the messy faces of my little people after a meal. I feel vindicated when I look at my grown-up kids; they all love to cook and entertain, especially for each other. Just drop by for a quick hello and inevitably they will cajole you to stay for a delicious meal.
It is a simple fact- there is no better way to form deep relationships than conversation over a home-cooked meal. In fact there is no better way to encourage the development of a warm supportive family than with great food and relaxed conversation around the dinner table.
God delights more in joyful chaos than in miserable, tight perfection.