I don’t know about your family meal time, but mine usually involves an endless stream of food complaints…
Is that a bean?
Do I have to eat it?
Why can’t we eat chicken nuggets every night?
Or a never ending supply of bathroom humor, armpit symphonies or knock-knock jokes the kids make up themselves. It invariably turns the meal unappetizing, exhausting or just in sudden silence when we finally veto every form of sound except for hubby and myself. Surely there’s got to be another way to redeem meal times? But with young kids, their ability to converse intelligently is so limited. Their rabbit trails dominate every time.
To try something, I’ve been reading out loud at the table while my kids and I eat. We’re currently reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. And in just a few meals, I’ve already been greatly encouraged by it. Here’s some of the great benefits just 2 meals have given me:
-Complaints about the meal are brief due to the fact that they can’t talk to me while listening to the story. So even though it may not be a favorite food, in the end, it gets eaten with much less complaining than if I was sitting there quiet.
-I’m reading to them. Forget the fact that readers produce readers; I’m showing to my younger boys who struggle with reading that a story can be engaging, funny, even scary.
-They are embarking on an adventure and their body is occupied with eating. My squirmy son Isaac usually needs to have body diversion in order to listen better. He’s a kinesthetic learner. The problem is usually finding something diversionary enough to listen but not enough to make him play instead. Eating is perfect.
-The art of conversation is being taught. After a chapter or two, I think of a few summary questions to ask them about what we’ve read. Intelligent answers are given and a meaningful conversation is had.
-The gospel is presented. This would, of course, depend on the book you read. The beauty of this book is the easily identifiable similarities between Satan, Jesus, sinfulness and the need for a Holy Rescue. This is vital for my daughter to see that even the “good” character Peter is sinful and need of rescue as much as the deceptive and bullying Edmund does. By asking questions of the heart about the characters it helps my kids understand that ‘out of the heart’ comes sinfulness (Mt 15:19) in such a way that doesn’t put my kids on defense or feel as though I’m disciplining them.
-It’s time with them. While I am with them all day, every day as a homeschooling mom, it doesn’t mean it’s a lot of quality time. One of the easy traps I fall into is thinking the quantity of time with them counts. But it’s the times of quality or how we engage our kids that makes the memory. My prayer is to continue this. To build it to a tradition. Not as an aimless it’s what we did growing up one but a targeted one. For as they grow and mature, harder literature, deeper questions, greater revelation about faith and lengthier conversations can be had that will continue to challenge all of our thoughts, beliefs, and hearts. It’s truly food for body and soul.