Mealtime: It’s not about the food

At our house, Tuesday is family supper day.

We have a Junior Tribe Members and fiancées who don’t live at home.  On Tuesdays, they know to show up.

They might have a game or a shift or something that has them miss occasionally, but it’s a day that we don’t arrange for them to come for supper. When it’s Tuesday, they just know to show up.

Mealtimes have always been an important gathering moment in our household…and took a special place in our two-families-who-are-also-one-family this last year. It’s a time when the focus is on the food…we gather because we are hungry.

But over food is when we share our lives. No agenda except to be together.

Mealtimes are where we grow together, as a family.  Mealtimes are when our JTM’s can feel loved. It’s my favourite time to be family.

I can't imagine life without a table between us. The table is the life raft, the center point, the home base of who we are together.  A quote by shauna niequest

Family Supper Tuesdays are a blast.  As I prep the meal, I often intentionally leave components of the meal so that the meal prep becomes a family affair.  One or two JTM’s will then make the salad, someone else will grate the cheese.  I never set the table…partly because I work during the day and there isn’t time…but mostly because one or two JTM’s will do that. It has us all milling about chatting and visiting about the day while we are puttering in the kitchen.

They don’t always love helping.  They’re kids. I remember being a kid and not liking to help.  That’s part of the meal: having them learn that you help even if you don’t feel like it.  (Cuz isn’t that part of what makes for being a successful adult?)

It’s a bustling, happy time with people arriving and checking in with each other.  It’s often a little chaotic, too. The food isn’t too fussy or fancy. However, I do know some of the favourites of our tribe, and I often make what I know one or more will love. One likes homemade pizza.  One likes gnocchi with basil sauce. They all like BarBQ of any kind in summer. Lettuce wraps and potstickers are enjoyed year round as a particular favourite for many.

The other days of the week, we eat together too. At the table.  No screens. Just face to face chatter. The other days there are less of us, and sometimes one or more miss because of schedule, but we work to time it so that the most people possible are at the table.

Sometimes, we talk about memories of earlier times…particularly important because all of our JTM’s lost living with both of their biological parents. We remember “the good old days” to keep the memories alive.

Other times we admire people in the news, or talk of a struggle we know someone faces.  We talk about the issues in ways that develop compassion for others, or inspire the development of character in ourselves.

There have been times in our lives past, where sports practices and activities took place over the supper hour.  I fought to have us eat together as a family still in whatever way possible…sometimes that meant we’d stop at a sandwich shop while driving from one place to another. The budget was tight, but it was worth it to me to invest in a time of sitting together to eat.

Busy times when we would make Saturday brunch the gathering time…we would book the time and hold it sacred for eating together, when the events of the week made eating suppers together difficult. It would be waffles at 11…the teenagers would get up when they could smell bacon. There were seasons when together-meals happened less often, but I fought for ways to make it happen whenever possible.

Mealtimes are when family happens.

I wanted to create the time when we would gather together over food. In our family before we eat, we stop to hold hands together around the table. We ask a blessing for the food and express gratitude for the goodness in our lives. Often the line, “Help us to be mindful of those that go without” was/is a last part of the prayer.

When I saw this video this week…it reminded me of the importance of meals with the kids:


The stuff of life is better caught, not taught.

And where better to catch life than around the table? In other words, teaching children about the importance of being helpful is far less likely to stick that gathering together and just creating an experience where folks are helping the meal happen (grumbling included).

Telling kids to be honest, or compassionate or good in any number of ways isn’t nearly as meaningful as them hearing of stories and history where we together admire someone struggling in adversity, and someone else bravely extending a hand up.

At the table, kids learn:


  • how to talk to each other,
  • to debate issues in a respectful way
  • to learn from others
  • to teach others
  • to take turns in conversation
  • to respond well when someone is not kind
  • to learn social niceties

At the family table kids learn community. Laughter and warmth and togetherness along with the grumbling and the whining about the complaint of the day co-exist. It’s a beautiful, extraordinary celebration of the utterly ordinary.  Ordinary is exquisitely beautiful.


The family table is a great place to feel loved.

In this world where phones and screens compete for our attention, and teams and lessons and appointments in our schedules pull us this way and that, a family mealtime is a frequent casualty of the busy-ness.

Our kids want us, and they want to know that we as parents priortize family over activity, and togetherness over the splintering our culture can so easily create.

Lift a glass and toast family togetherness at the table? (though you can probably expect one kid to toast a little ambitiously and break the glass…but that is the stuff of the magic of it all).

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