Our dinner table is a treasure, not for its pristine shine or expensive price tag, but for the bonding we all shared sitting around it in our second hand chairs we snagged before the local Wendy’s restaurant threw them in the landfill. As a matter of fact, my husband made it for me himself when we moved to this little country farm house and our old table had fallen apart.
We’ve laughed ourselves silly over gaffs in speech, held each other accountable for unkindness, and shed more than a few tears. That table, with all its dings and scrapes, is a symbol of unity in our home.
Children ran different directions between soccer and football practice, part-time jobs, and doctor appointments; getting everyone together at once seemed an insurmountable task on paper, but most days, we managed to sit, all six of us, around that old faithful friend and share a home-cooked meal.
“What was the favorite part of your day?” I would ask each one in turn. At the time, I simply wanted to keep them all there and practice the fine art of conversation, but that question, over time, became the hallmark of our family culture. Every one of my children stops to ask, “How was your day?”
I smile to myself as my older son slips frequently through the back door of our little farm house, places his hand on my back, and inquires if I had a good day. These little niceties most take for granted will eventually be the glue that holds his future family together. He’s doing more than practicing a formality; he’s investing in my well-being, and I have no doubt, he will eventually do the same for his wife. He’s single and handsome, by the way.
In a recent conversation with our younger son and younger daughter, we discussed racial tensions in our culture. If you’ve followed this blog, you’re aware of our ethnically mixed family. Wendell lives in a very diverse neighborhood and has experienced tension now from a different perspective than he did growing up. As he sat at this same table talking to Tylesha and us, he said, “If people would just sit down at a table together like this and just talk to each other and listen to each other, we could solve these problems.”
He learned this by sitting at a table, meal after meal, sharing his day and listening to his family share theirs. Sometimes he heard the joys of a great days, but often he listened as siblings expressed frustration over a slight, real or perceived, and he learned to listen and acknowledge someone else’s thoughts and feelings. He learned to think beyond himself and into the life of another, and he walked into his adult world better for it.
We live in a fast-paced culture, characterized by urgent and competing needs. Don’t let the busyness of life rob your children of such important lessons. Clear the paperwork off that dining room table, set it with your mismatched plates and plastic cups, and carve out time to listen to each other.
One day, you may be sitting with your child and her family, as I did recently, and hear her ask her children, “What was the favorite part of your day?” …and you’ll smile.
…and that’s the view from My Front Porch.