We rarely eat at our dinner table, but I can feel a shift coming. So much of parenting is the shifting from one season to the next. With three little ones, life is constantly in flux from changing sizes to new skills to expanding vocabulary. And don’t even get me started on food.
For the past five years, Zach and I have normally fed the kids an early supper, done the rigamarole of bedtime routines, and then settled in for our own dinner around 7:30. This worked well, because our meal didn’t feel constantly interrupted by feeding baby food on tiny spoons or the fetching of many things throughout a toddler’s meal. We could have a conversation or just some peace without getting frustrated over a toddler’s dwindling selection of tolerable foods or in my husband’s case, absent-mindedly finishing the baby’s leftover food himself. During the kids’ meals we were able to focus on the kids, perched on their kitchen stools with their petite-sized silverware and divided plates.
The dining table sat abandoned unless the kids needed a big space to spread out crafts or we had gathered a crowd for a party.
Lately though, we’ve started having a few meals here and there, especially on Sundays, when the five of us gather around the dinner table for a meal. Now that our older kids can carry on a conversation, albeit often goofy, it’s fun to reconnect facing each other around a table. I make a point to light some candles, which they adore, and it’s amazing how the flickering light can calm them and emphasize the ordinary special-ness of a meal together. The meals aren’t fancy, in fact, I’ve found it really helps to pick the top hits – tacos, pizza, pasta – to keep my stress level low.
I’d say we’re maybe at 10% of meals eaten like this (although with busy season right now, it’s a little lower than that), but it has given me a glimpse into the future. Some of my favorite authors – Jenny Rosenstrach, Shauna Niequist, Ruth Reichl – have more poetically written about the power of the table, the consistent thread of meeting together for comfort from food and family. I believe it can shape a family. I’m grateful for our kitchen stool days because it helped us to navigate the crazy of three babies, three and under. But I’m deeply excited for the days ahead of eating with my most precious people around this table.
PS: So many of these thoughts and dreams came from a few favorite books – namely Dinner: A Love Story, Bread and Wine, and my own mom, who consistently gathered us around her table for food and comfort.