Meal Times December 19 2014

Mothers and fathers tell us here that mealtimes are getting harder and harder to have together as families. We can tell you all that this gathering of the family over a meal is worth working hard to maintain!

Even if the meal must be taken out because everyone is too busy to cook something, to sit down together at the same time and share food and the events of everyone’s day is one element in mental and physical health! First of all, to sit still and eat more slowly because of the talk and the passing of food, helps indigestion. Racing off with food in one’s mouth has the likelihood of creating digestive problems later in a child’s (or an adult’s life).

We hear from parents that discussion of books which members of the family are reading and how they feel about what they are reading come up at mealtimes together more often than at almost any other time in the day. Parents learn about events in a child’s day, things that are worrying the child, accomplishments, fun parts of school, who the best friends are, and how the child likes or doesn’t the different subjects being learned at school all come out at the dinner table.                                                           

Children learn rules of common courtesy while eating, learn about other members of the family, feel safe and connected at such times, and rejoice quietly at being part of a family.                                                                

Some parents assign a day of the week to each member of the family to be responsible for dinner. Once a child in a family turns nine, she or he is responsible for a simple meal of pasta, sauce, and salad, or pizza and salad. Dinner has a specific time and food must be ready and everyone present at that time. Parents ensure that the ingredients are available for these simple-to-prepare meals. Some children who cooked for their families end up studying at the Culinary Institute or in Paris at the Cordon Bleu we have heard!

Sports practices, music lessons, play dates, demands of parents’ work schedules, and fatigue all block the chance to share dinner times. Still, targeting those evenings when dinner can be shared is well worth the planning and effort! Maybe breakfasts can be more organized before everyone in the family dashes off! Light candles over oatmeal! Pick a time to sit down together! Wake up together!

Whatever the plan, have a plan and sit down together, express gratitude for family, food and time together! In the words of the simple grace by Elisabeth Kokebacher, retired music teacher from the Toronto Waldorf School:

For food in a world where many walk in hunger,
For love in a world where many walk in fear,
For friends in a world where many walk alone      
We give our humble thanks, Oh Lord*.
(*or “This day” if this fits better with your family!)