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How To Eat Dinner As A Family Without Losing Your Mind

Oh, family dinners.

You know, the ones that I’ve idealized in my mind since, forever? The ones where my grateful children sit with hands folded delicately over the napkins in their laps as they await the well-balanced meal I’ve worked so hard to prepare? That ideal, my friend, is what mocks me when 5 o’clock rolls around and my kids are convinced that dinner smells like “lamb’s blood” (???). And that, my friend, is why the thought of trying to train my children to act less than a fool at the dinner table makes me want to strap everyone in the car and speed to the nearest restaurant with a play place.

The desire of my heart is to create a warm atmosphere of consistent family dinners. I want to foster an environment for my people to connect deeply. I want our table to be a sacred space, a sanctuary of sorts. Because it’s over warm dinner rolls and spilled cups of milk that a heritage of memories, a legacy of laughter and the practice of forgiveness are formed.

After all, families that supper together, stay together; at least that’s what the stats say. And I sure do want those stats to be true of my clan, but daggumit, it takes a large helping of grit smothered in grace to make it through even ONE dinner at my house, let alone a lifetime. So, how can a tired momma be intentional in creating a rich family life around the table? How can an atmosphere of acceptance, gratitude, love and inquisitiveness be forged over plastic forks and sippy cups?

“When you offer peace instead of division, when you offer faith instead of fear, when you offer someone a place at your table instead of keeping them out because they’re different or messy or wrong somehow, you represent the heart of Christ.” -Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine 

How To Eat Dinner As A Family Without Losing Your Mind

 

How To Eat Dinner As A Family Without Losing Your Mind: 

1. Proper Perspective:

There I was, fussing at my 8-year-old who had come undone and was acting out of the exhaustion we all felt. I lost my patience and ashamedly said, “No one with THAT kind of attitude is welcome at MY dinner table!” There ya go, mom. A little shaming can go a long way, right? False. Why not just give him a hug and usher him to the table for nourishment with a large helping of forgiveness? The Holy Spirit pricked my heart and reminded me that HE is the one who continually invites ME and my bad attitudes to His banquetting table. In fact, because my life is hidden in Christ, His banner over me is love, regardless of my attitudes or actions. Man, how good does that feel? I need that in same hospitable heart in my mothering. 

“We don’t come to the table to fight or to defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. 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, Bread & Wine

Let’s ask God for the perspective we need to invite the weak and weary to our banquet, farmhouse or card table, because, His banner over us is love

2. Paper or Plastic:

So, hopefully now we have the right perspective. Namely, people don’t need to perform in order to join us in community around our tables. But, since we’ve got attitudes and time schedules to manage, let’s ask ourselves how can we can make the meal and table prep as easy on ourselves as possible?

First things first, skip the fussy table cloth and roll out butcher paper so kids can color while momma finalizes the meal. Then, let’s ask one child to set the table with some paper plates and plastic spoons so you can be free from dishes later. Hand another child a small vase and get them to run out in the yard and find some greenery. Dig out an old candle and bam! Pinterest-worthy ambiance and everyone helped! And if you throw on some instrumental hymns (or instrumental hip hop for that matter) the atmosphere will be even more elegant! Let’s make disciples even in and especially in the kitchen. 

3. Prayerful Playfulness and Perseverance:

Okay, your perspective is on point, you’re working smarter not harder by delegating and making things easier on yourself, but by now someone has inevitably spilled something and/or turned their nose at the English peas hidden in the Chicken Alfredo. Breathe a breath prayer and ask God to make you creatively patient. It’s time to get playful. Perhaps you need to play a rousing game of “Don’t You Eat That” where you beg the child (or husband) NOT to eat the peas. Whatever they do, PULEASSEE do not put even a one pea in their mouth! “NOOO! Don’t you dare do it!!” Reverse psycology at it’s finest. In our house it works every time. Or maybe play like my mother always did, by saying, “Okay, we are going to pretend that the President of the United States of America has invited you for supper this evening…” and playfully incorporate the desired manners. Whatever it is, so many bad attitudes can be laughed off if we prayerfully practice joyful hospitality to those ALREADY in our homes as much treating them the way we would those INVITE to come in

And, when we practice our ideals over and over, they will eventually become our reality. Let’s consistently involve our children in mealtime preparations, constantly attempt to sit and ask each other meaningful questions and let’s faithfully show up to lay down our rights so that we can create rich family time around the table. 

“I always wanted to be a hero–to sacrifice my life in a big way one time–and yet, God has required my sacrifice to be thousands of days, over many years, with one more kiss, one more story, one more meal.” -Sally Clarkson, Own Your Life

What tips and tools do you have to share about creating rich family time around the table? I so wish you and your crew could come over for supper at our (crazy) house tonight, but in the meantime, let’s swap recipes and talk motherhood @kitty_hurdle on Instagram or sign up for my newsletter and you can download “100 Table Talk Conversation Starters” for free.

 

Play On, Players

Today I am guest posting at Thrive Moms and so I wanted to share these thoughts with you as well!

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I kinda stink at playing with my kids.

There…I said it.

I wish I naturally enjoyed playing dolls and spontaneously turning PB&J sandwich crusts into semi-automatic rifles, but it’s a challenge. My husband can play Barbies with the best of them, (which raises no question about his masculinity, rather gives him *awesome dad points*), however, I’m much more of the puzzle, read-aloud book, and “y’all go play outside” type.

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This summer, our family lived overseas and we had to become really good at communicating with people who didn’t speak our language. My son and daughter learned to navigate this by smiling extra big at kids on the playground and offering to kick a ball back and forth. It was pretty amazing to see true friendship form between children who couldn’t even pronounce each others’ names…all thanks to a smile and a soccer ball.

This connection spoke volumes to me about playing with my kids. Sometimes it seems we just don’t speak the same language. I want more than anything to nurture their hearts. Right now, the name of their soul’s language game is play. And truthfully, isn’t it the language of us all? Don’t we all crave that break from reality and routine? Don’t we all long to laugh with the people we love? Isn’t it calming to color side-by-side or paint a tiny human’s fingernails just because? Hit the whiffle ball clear down the backyard and go whooping and hollering through the grass? And doesn’t our Heavenly Father lean close to care about our unique interests? Didn’t He create those desires in us? Isn’t this how our hearts most naturally connect with Him?

God created the world to be productive. He created us in His image, calling us to work heartily as unto Him, and to be fruitful and multiply. Worshipful work stands at the center of our purpose for living. But, God also created play. Look at the wildflowers that dance in the rain. Examine your sweetest memories in life. Observe your precious children who reflect His image in their spare time, without even trying. Our playfulness reflects the creative intentions of our playfully endearing God.

Maybe you’re an imaginative-play rockstar or maybe you’re like me and you struggle to prioritize play. Either way, I’d love for you to join me in setting a timer for ten minutes, getting down on the floor with each of our children and asking them, “Hey, can I play with you?” I’ll bet your kids, like mine, will be delighted to see us speaking their language.

What do you think about play? Do you consider play as part of God’s original design for creation? What are your favorite playful activities? What ways do you enjoy playing with your children? What about as a family at large?

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” -Mr. Rogers

We are to work. We are to rest. We are also to play, relishing the beauty, freedom and delight of life. So play on, players.074