We don’t always eat dinner at the table. Especially right now. Our dining room table has morphed into a cubicle for my husband and a desk for my daughter. I’d like to say the current surreal way of life for many of us contributed to our current behavior. But, truthfully, this set-up isn’t completely new for us.
I am passionate about families sharing meals together. Therefore, It should come as no surprise that my family practices it and I write about it https://www.crosswalk.com/family/parenting/5-reasons-why-eating-meals-together-is-so-great-for-your-family.html . Research shows multiple benefits of family feasting. Anne Fishel, Ph.D., a family therapist and co-founder of The Family Dinner Project, says “The benefits range from the cognitive ones (young kids having bigger vocabularies and older kids doing better in school) to the physical ones (better cardiovascular health, lower obesity rates and eating more vegetables and fruits) to psychological ones (lower rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and fewer behavioral problems in school).”
What may surprise you is the fact that we don’t always eat at the table. This is the kind of revelation that is tempting to disclose in a hushed voice. It appears hypocritical at best and an indication of “culture caving” at worst. But sometimes, we have to acknowledge what is the best means to the end. Because sometimes something which appears to be the best practice for others may not be the best practice for you.
In my pre-child days, I balked at the idea of families not taking advantage of time together around the table. As an experienced youth and family pastor, I saw the effects of breakdown in communication and the temptation to find opportunities which led to further alienation. With the increase of food on the go and family activities fracturing time together, I longed for parents to keep meal time together as a priority. I viewed it as sacred. And still do.
But there can be more than one way to meet a goal. While my husband and I incorporated creative ideas for keeping the practice of eating together at the table fresh, dynamics in our family made it challenging at times. Mood disorders came to the table too. It’s our truth. And rather than forcing a venue that harmed, we created one that restored.
The point is about engaging and building relationships around the table. So sometimes, the “table” moves. And yes, a couch may be involved. But while we sit on the couch, we watch a video from Bible Project https://bibleproject.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw9ZzzBRCKARIsANwXaeJ-fsjj_r0Wk_9Z0kiUQadwxK9leqAghIw7fS-mIdpxMtmM0gkmEtkaAk8FEALw_wcB ) and discuss it. Or play a game. Or laugh through a shared favorite tv show. Every family comes to the table with different needs. The question is: How can we meet them?
We still gather around our table intentionally (and invite others to it!). But we know that the sacred act of gathering with others to nourish our bodies and souls can happen in more than one way. And we thank God for those opportunities. Because now, more than ever, we need to cherish time together.