I wrote this essay several years ago, for my unfinished book, and share it today in an effort to stick within the mission of I Am Not the World’s Greatest Dad, and as I consider the ministry and service I feel God has called me to. I also share these words out of obedience, as I feel nudged by the Holy Spirit to do so. I have added a few thoughts in parentheses, and then again at the end following the three asterisk’s. My aim is not to offend, but rather to encourage communication in your home, and to encourage strength in your marriage. If you would like to talk about what you read here, as always, I am available. Just shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you have another means to contact me, feel free.
Our family eats dinner together at a table, where we can interact with each other, every night. Well, almost every night. There are some exceptions where one of us, usually me, can’t make it, but almost every night we find ourselves eating dinner together as a family. (Quite often we eat breakfast together too, and on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday you can find us fixing and making lunch together as we.)
We have found that coming together over a meal is a good way to end our day together, while we begin enjoying an evening at home. Our dinner conversation usually includes highlights from the day, discussions on current events and a whole lot of other random topics.
When my wife, Heidi, and I got married and started having kids, there wasn’t a whole lot of discussion about whether or not we would eat dinner together as a family in one central location. Having both grown up in families that enjoyed sharing dinner together, our eating together was an expectation and something we both desired. The transition to marriage and family life was perhaps even made easier with knowing that we would at least be able to see each other at the end of the day around a meal.
I’m not sure what evening meals where like in Heidi’s house growing up, you could ask her if you want to and I am sure she would tell you. I do, however, have firsthand knowledge of the dinner experience in the home I grew up in. We almost always ate dinner together as a family around the dinner table. Exceptions to the norm were if one of my parents had to work or be at a meeting, if there was a sport being played somewhere by one of us kids, or if there was a game on we wanted to watch, in which case we would get out the old-school metal TV trays with flowers on them and gather around the glow of the television.
The conversations around the dinner table in my house growing up varied from the events of the day, theological discussions, life lessons, friendly banter, and casual conversation. Dinner became a place where we could talk openly about what happened in our day, and share with each other. When I was in the third grade, for example, and the space shuttle Challenger exploded right after lift-off we came home from school and talked about it and then talked about it some more at dinner. Talking the tragic event out helped us understand and grasp the magnitude of what had happened.
I can remember talking about other big events, and several life lessons being learned. One such life lesson occurred towards the end of our family meal one evening. Either my mom or my dad, probably my dad, told us there was something he and my mom wanted to discuss with us kids. This statement was said in such a way that even now I remember knowing I better pay attention because what was going to be said next would be very important.
At that time in our town several families we knew were going through divorce. (And I say the word families here because when children are involved divorce not only impacts the husband and wife, but the children as well.) I didn’t know a lot about divorce at the time, but I remember thinking it probably was not a good thing. My parents felt like they needed to take the opportunity to share with us that while some people felt like divorce was an option, they did not. They assured us they would always be married to each other, a promise they are happily still keeping.
Obviously, they didn’t need to take the time to share this insight with my brother, sister, and I, but they felt a need as parents for their children to hear about marriage and divorce from them. I appreciate and respect my parents a great deal for taking the time to let us know they would always be married to each other, and that divorce was not an option for them. I trusted what they said, and have never had to worry about their marriage. There was security in what they shared, what they modeled to us every day, and in what they continue to model to us.
A few years ago at the end of one of our family dinners, my wife and I told our boys we had something to tell them. The dinner table is as good a place as any to teach our children lessons. At the end of the meal we shared with them about marriage, about the love we have for each other, and about how divorce is not an option for us. (I will add that this conversation has happened a few more times since our initial talk. Believe me my sons know that no matter how big of a jerk I am, mom isn’t going anywhere!)
We didn’t have to share this information with our children, but we want them to grow up knowing they don’t have to worry about whether or not mom or dad are going to split up in a world where so many couples think divorce is their only option. The hard part lies with Heidi and me, as we have to continue working at our marriage every day, to continue working on loving each other and our kids every day, and to allow mutual love, trust, humility, and respect to be part of who we all are together. (It might be worth mentioning from a stand point of integrity and good standing with your children, that if you don’t think you can live up to the expectations of a conversation on marriage with your children, don’t have the conversation.)
There may or may not be a direct correlation between families eating together, and families staying together, but I suspect there is. Until a survey on family dining is done that might prove otherwise, we will keep eating dinner together as a family and sharing conversations, life lessons, and other important information. I would encourage you and your family to do the same.
I have a couple of other thoughts to share as I end this post.
As a follower of Christ I could have shared some words from the Bible on the sanctity of marriage, but I didn’t feel led to in this particular essay. Perhaps I will at another time. But, you should know that in order to have integrity in what I believe I am using the Bible as my foundation when I consider marriage and this sacred institution God ordains.
In no way shape or form do I want to judge anyone as I write this, and believe me I had no particular people in mind when I wrote these words 8 or so years ago. That’s not up to me, I don’t know your situation, and I feel like I can share my thoughts and still love folks and have relationships with them without having to be in total agreement. In this theme, know that I care, and am here to help if any of you might need it, and that there are a lot of other people out there who care and can help as well.
I said earlier that I felt led to write this, and post these thoughts today. I believe this desire to share these thoughts comes out of concern for marriage, family, society, culture, United States, and people scattered around the globe. This is something I feel deeply about, and have been praying about how I might engage on this topic and other topics related to families on a more regular basis. One of the reasons perhaps I feel led to write more and to host my podcast. God willing, people will be encouraged, and communication, and restoration (where needed) will take place.