“Date your family.” I know you read that title and thought, “What the heck?!” Bear with me my dear friends. There are perspective shifting, family changing ideas ahead! My husband and I are both old souls and I knew we had something in common when he invited me over to watch an old movie and started out the night with a hilarious 1950-something educational film called “A Date with Your Family”. The film painted the picture of a laughably quaint family life that was so “Leave it to Beaver” it would make even the most conservative person living in 2016 cringe at the gender stereotypes. (Note how sister changes into a festive frock and helps mother with dinner while brother takes time to do his homework. Um, when is sister supposed to do her homework?!)
As over the top as this film is, it’s really stuck with me – obviously since I’m still talking about it over six years since first seeing it – and it left me thinking about dinner in the modern home. We all know that the dinner hour has become a frantic and rushed part of the day. But, when it comes to hospitality, how can we ever hope to get to a point where social get-togethers are less stressful if we never take the time to practice our skills the rest of the time? What if we put a little extra effort into everyday dinners – both in preparing and presentation but also in conversing with one another? I bet you’ll find not only have you honed your hospitality skills but you’ve also created more meaningful moments with your most important guests – your family! So, here are some ideas to help you “Date Your Family” even if you’re no June Cleaver –
- Plan Ahead – Think back to when you were dating your spouse, you always thought through your plan for a date well in advance. It was fun to imagine how it would work out and it made everything run a little smoother. The same is true for family dinner! If you haven’t found a rhythm for meal planning, I highly recommend it. And, I know what you’re saying. “I’m too busy to meal plan!” Well, here’s a little secret, the busier you are, the more important it is to carve out the time to plan your meals. You’ll eat better and spend less and have less stress. Find the system that works well for you – weekly meal plans, every two weeks or even having a freezer full of a few staple meals. Whatever it is, work at it and fine tune it to fit your family. You’ll never regret making the effort!
- Set the Mood – There’s someone I’d like to introduce you to – – – your table. For some of you, your table is like a distant acquaintance used more for craft projects and collecting the mail than bonding with your family. Meals are eaten on the couch, standing in the kitchen or at the breakfast bar. But tables are different. Tables encourage us to sit down and engage with each other. Take a little time each week to spruce your table. Wipe it down, put out fresh napkins or a pretty table cloth or place-mats (You own these things anyway, why not use them?!) Make it inviting! When it’s time for dinner, dim the lights and light a candle. I know you’re scoffing at me but my mother frequently lit a candle for family dinner and I do it too. We’ve noticed that even our toddler seems to mellow out with the more relaxed mood.
- Turn off the Electronics – In my house growing up, we didn’t even answer the phone if it rang during dinner. I think that was pretty common for a lot of homes in the 80’s. I’m not sure how we progressed from that to where we are now but I know I’m just as guilty as the next person of having my face buried in my phone while I shovel food in my mouth! Consider making dinner a 30 minute technology free zone. Silence the phones, turn off the TV and tune into each other. Be present with the ones you’re with. You’ll be teaching your kids how to do the same.
Okay, so here’s the honest truth, is dinner like this at my house every night? Absolutely not!!! Have I mentioned I have a two year old who won’t eat and a 10 month old who can’t get enough food? We battle over food, order pizza because I don’t have a plan and leave the TV on from time to time but I’m a big believer in the 80/20 rule. If 80% of the time you’re making an effort to treat dinner more like a date, the 20% of the time you can’t, won’t really matter in the long run. You’ll see the positive effects from all the little changes you make! So, tell me, is dinner an important time at your home? Do you have ways that you encourage your family to slow down and enjoy each other? Any words of wisdom for drawing kids more into the conversation? I’d love to hear it all below so don’t forget to leave a comment!
Acts 2:46 – They broke bread in their homes
and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.