Is it lost, do you think, this art of lingering around the table? Do we gobble and go rather than linger and listen? In our hustle and haste to feed the family and chauffeur kids to assorted activities and hurry to the next thing, it’s all too easy for us to miss the opportunity to connect at dinnertime. So, is the table even worth fighting for?
I happen to think so. That opportunity to connect and check in and exhale for a while, it’s priceless. Yes, there are seasons of crazy and schedules collide resulting in us playing touch-tag some evenings, but surely being nourished physically can coincide with being nourished emotionally, spiritually even. We could actually feed our souls while we feed our faces! 🙂
Now please don’t think I’m on my high horse having this table business all figured out. Far from it. But when we started a family, we made it a priority to attempt to sit at a table together to eat dinner most evenings. Lyndon always did it growing up whereas I didn’t. In true FOMO style, I readily adopted his tradition. When the littles came along, we continued the habit, albeit amidst tantrums, picky eaters, chatterers, the timer being set to speed up the laboriously painful process, and post-dinner décor looking like a food tsunami had occurred. Little House on the Prairie we were not. This Ma and Pa were frequently exasperated and exhausted by dessert, but looking back—it was precious. We persevered, and learned a LOT about our kids and ourselves in the process.
Honestly, it’s tempting to drop into “Martha mode” and be all about the food prep and getting her done as painlessly as possible with everyone fed and onto the next thing in a timely fashion. Yet we are in danger of missing out on the “Mary-ish” moments with our own people, not pausing long enough to listen to and invest in the lives of our family gathered around the table. Scary thought: the family will not always look like this. They grow up and away and your opportunities to linger with them over dinner may be sparse. I know of what I speak!
SIDE NOTE: I’m just a little-bit-ever-so giddy at the moment because my daughter and her hubby have returned to this side of the country! Seven years ago, I left her in the beautiful-but-far-away city of Montreal and hopped on 2 planes to bring me back home to British Columbia. I’m not gonna lie, it was hard. But this month they drove across Canada to settle back in B.C. Just a 4-hour drive from us. In the very same city as our middle one. There will be much lingering around all sorts of tables!
And then like a cherry on the family sundae, my parents from England just came to stay with us (we hadn’t seen them in over 2 and a half years) and so ALL my kids and my parents were lingering around the table together! You guys, it was beyond phenomenal. A little taste of heaven perhaps. I tried not to Martha too much…
So how can we bring back the art of lingering at the table?
- Schedule it— even once a week is better than never. Plan a nice dinner, lunch, or even breakfast when you can all connect without running away right after the last morsel is swallowed.
- Hospitality— crazily, it can be easier to count on everyone being there when you have guests coming over for a meal. It’s intentional and you actually want to chat and laugh and share.
- No phones— I know, it’s a thing. But no phones at the dinner table make for connections face-to-face rather than face-to-top-of-head.
- Fru-fru— a candle or a spray of flowers in the center of the table can make it feel special. I’m not talking perfection here, just a nice little touch. At the very least, YOU will enjoy it.
- Discussions— you may have littles who willingly share their highlight of the day, or you may have teens who will rise to a debate on some political issue, or all have a conversation about the church service you attended… be prepared for some real talking.
- Dessert— now this is a personal preference, but I’m a Brit with a sweet tooth and dinner isn’t over until dessert is done, so perhaps (even occasionally?) you could serve a sweet and make the meal last a little longer. Apologies to the super healthy.
“In a world that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel.” Shauna Niequist
Safety and rest and humanity. Sound good?
Enjoy some table-talk and linger longer, friends…
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