Life around our dinner table was relaxed and happy because I allowed my children to behave in age- appropriate ways. I did not demand adult perfection. The consequences of this decision were messy but well worth the time it took to mop up after meal time.
It meant I did not shovel neat, tidy mouthfuls of food into a toddler because we let little people feed themselves as soon as they reached for the spoon. It meant including three-year-olds in meal prep, sending five- and six-year-olds running out to the garden for vegetables and allowing a ten-year-old to make the dessert. In other words, we valued participation over a neat and tidy kitchen and orderly meal times.
Listen as I struggled to gather my crew every night for a family meal.
“Oh good, you’re done barn chores. Perfect timing; dinner is almost ready.”
“Two more minutes, everybody!”
“Joseph I’ll help after we eat, okay?”
“Mary, please run up and open Jean’s door and shut off the music.”
‘Dinner is ready!”
“Grace, I know you love that book, sweetheart but remember, no reading at the dinner table.”
“Honey, would you lift up Daniel into the high chair?”
“Are we all here? Anyone missing?”
Ah, dinner time in a large family.
Dinner was the highlight of the day with everyone clambering to share their news or simply squeeze in comments into the cacophony of voices. It was a humorous symphony which sounded perfectly in tune to my ears. High pitched baby squeals combined with loud, boisterous little boys.and the quivering of a male teen voice balanced teenage girl’s chatter. Dad’s reassuring bass tones soothed my shrill calls for everyone to listen to the toddler’s newest word. The highlight of this often unruly symphony was the spontaneous laughter punctuating the entire meal.
Everyone was excited to gather in the family room and watch a movie, right after dinner, calling out to the clean-up team to hurry up. The warm sense of togetherness continued right through the entertainment with kids sprawled all over the room, propped up with pillows. Some movies we watched countless times, especially comedies and animated musicals. The older kids and my husband and I were amused when some movies snuck in asides which the younger kids did not pick up on but kept us engaged.
Best of all dinner and a movie at home was a cheap, affordable way to have fun together, no need to spend a lot of money at a restaurant and a movie theater. If you’re looking to save some money too, and check out some wholesome, Christian content, give Pure Flix’s free month trial a look.
Now I am reaping the rewards of decisions which sent some visitors into sputtering, spirals of incredulity as they eyed my kitchen and the messy faces of my little people after a meal. I feel vindicated when I look at my grown-up kids; they all love to cook and entertain, especially for each other. Just drop by for a quick hello and inevitably they will cajole you to stay for a delicious meal.
God delights more in joyful chaos than in miserable, tight perfection.