Bless, O Lord, this food to our use and us to Thy service
And make us ever mindful of Thy many blessings
(Blessing from my husband’s side of the family)
Father, we thank Thee for this food before us
Give us strength to do Thy will
Guide and protect us in Thy heavenly path
For Christ’s sake
(Blessing from my side of the family)
Mealtimes are a vital place to slow down, to bring together different traditions from your side of the family and your partner’s side of the family, to protect and nurture and linger together.
Studies show interesting connections between children’s behavior and whether or not they ate family meals. Many studies show, for example, decreased rates of childhood drug use and depression and better school performance in families who have consistent meals together. This was an interesting link that gathered much of the research on family meals together (the part about the effect of family meals on children of alcoholics who were now adults was especially interesting!): http://nutrition.wsu.edu/ebet/background.html. See also this link: http://parenting.families.com/blog/why-families-should-eat-dinner-together
Some say as the children grow older, a big obstacle is outside activities scheduled at dinner time. I often wonder if this happens in countries outside the United States; if you are one of my overseas readers please do feel free to leave a comment below! I really do understand! My oldest child is busy in rhythmic gymnastics several days a week around dinnertime. However, even with her gymnastics schedule, eating meals together is a priority. Every day. I truly think it can be done if it is a priority of the whole family.
Eating whole foods is also a top priority. Some mothers are so fabulous with culturing their own foods, grinding wheat or other grains to make their own bread, and cooking from scratch. Other mothers are just starting their journey into healthy, whole food eating, and I applaud them. We are all on this journey, and some of us really did grow up without family meals or without meals made from scratch, so this is new territory.
If the idea of eating from scratch daily is new to you, or if you are just headed into menu and meal planning, try this back post for some help: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/08/january-focus-on-the-home-meal-planning/
I really enjoyed Season of Joy’s post regarding eating whole foods on a budget (for a family of eight!). You can read that post here: http://ourseasonsofjoy.com/musings/whole-foods-journey-when-the-questions-change/
Besides the complexities of cooking, eating and sharing a meal with small children can be challenging. Some mothers have told me this post was helpful to them regarding age by age expectations surrounding mealtimes: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/10/17/back-to-basics-realistic-expectations-for-mealtimes/
As children grow, mealtimes become a way to teach children manners and proper eating. Show your children how to pass the bowl of vegetables, how to create conversation during a meal. Rightly done, mealtimes involve children in the preparation of healthy food and cleaning up from a meal. There is so much more to mealtimes than just eating!
I love this quote from Kim John Payne’s book “Simplicity Parenting”: “The family dinner is more than a meal. Coming together, committing to a shared time and experience, exchanging conversation, food and attention…all of these add up to more than full bellies. The nourishment is exponential. Family stories, cultural markers, and information about how we live are passed around with the peas. The process is more than the meal: It is what comes before and after. It is the reverence paid. The process is also more important than the particulars. Not only is it more forgiving, but also, like any rhythm, it gets better with practice.”
My plea is for all of you to plan healthy meals, to involve your children in growing food, shopping for food,and celebrating together as a family at every mealtime.
Much love and many blessings,