When we moved to Maryland 6 months ago, we had to sell our kitchen table. It was a nice table. Here is a picture of it set up one year at Christmas when we hosted our extended family.
It was a great table, but just too big to bring with us. So, as we moved to Maryland, one of our first orders of business was to buy a kitchen table. Here's the one we purchased.
It's much smaller. We literally have to squeeze in around it. It moves if you lean against it. But, it's not the table that is important, but rather what happens around it.
Around our table we have shared laughter and tears. We have made crafts. We have celebrated birthdays. We have talked about the "highs" and "lows" of our day. I have built numerous Lego sets with my son. I have colored in countless coloring books with my girls.
Around our table we share breakfast and dinner together nearly every day. It gives us the opportunity to start our day together ... to pray together ... to read a short Bible story together and to express our dependence upon God. It also gives us the opportunity to come back together as a family toward the end of the day and share our experiences. What made us happy? What made us sad? We eat. We share. We laugh. And, in all honesty, with 4 kids under 7 ... there are times when we get mad as well. It's not all butterflies and rainbows at our table, but I wouldn't change a thing.
Around our table our kids have learned responsibility. They have to help set up for dinner. They have to help clean up after dinner. They have to learn to eat their vegetables ... even the ones they don't like. It provides an opportunity to show gratitude. As much as I can, I remind our kids to say "thank you" to mom for all the work she has put in to making the meal happen. (My wife is an amazing cook, by the way!)
Around the table, we've exposed kids to different cultures. We've tried to make different foods that different cultures may eat. We talk about different countries. It's helped broaden the world for our kids and helps them realize there is a much greater world out there than what they'll find in our hometown.
We also pray. We take time to remember that all we have is from God and we do not take that for granted. We want to take time to pray for those who do not have as much food as we do (like our sponsor children) and we thank God that He has blessed us for more than we would ever deserve.
A lot of research has been done on the importance of family meals. One article said this: "Parents have heard it for years: Family dinners help kids avoid risky behaviors and may even help them in school. But new research shows that the more frequent these dinners, the better the adolescents fare emotionally. (Journal of Adolescent Health). The effect doesn't plateau after three or four dinners a week," says co-author Frank Elgar, an associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University in Montréal. "The more dinners a week the better."
With each additional dinner, researchers found fewer emotional and behavioral problems, greater emotional well-being, more trusting and helpful behaviors toward others and higher life satisfaction, regardless of gender, age or family economics."
The table could be made of oak, pine, or particle board. It could have wooden chairs, metal chairs, or plastic chairs. It could be large or small. To us, it's not the table that is important, but rather what happens around the table. It represents more than a piece of furniture. It represents a value we have decided to have. We believe in family meals together. I know it doesn't work for every family, and that's certainly OK. But, we have enjoyed trying to make the rhythm of our family work around meals together. I really feel it's one of the best decisions we've made.