We gather, every night around 5:30, around Grandpa K’s big old wooden dining room table. So many generations of our family have come together at this table. Nine months ago we put the leaf in for a birthday party, and we’ve left it in, because we like to spread out and it’s more conducive to art projects to have the table nice and long.
I don’t cook fancy food, and none of my serving dishes match any of the others. Cups get knocked over at least a couple times a week, and a buttery knife is basically guaranteed to fall on the table during every single meal. The kids fight silently during prayer, squeezing each other’s fingers violently or refusing to hold hands at all. Passing clockwise is a concept some of us still struggle with.
It doesn’t matter. Family dinners, with all their messes and with the dreadful manners that leave me cringing, with all the complaints or backhanded compliments (“this isn’t as bad as it looks, Mom!”), are still a sweet and sacred part of the day.
They’ve been important for years, but now they are crucial. I miss my kids while they’re at school. Dinner is when we reconnect.
We go around the table and share– What was the best part of our day? The worst? What’s something new we learned? We are teaching conversational skills and hopefully discovering what’s up in our kids’ lives.
My children’s personalities shine through in this exercise– R always says that the best part of his day was “Coming home and seeing my MOMMY!” because he’s fourteen and speaks sarcasm like a pro. Generally then he shares something else, but not always. I’m glad he likes coming home. S’s answers are usually short and to the point. He likes to say that the worst part of his day was school, but I make him name something specific, because I’m here all day and he’s definitely not walking around miserable. G’s answers are long and rambling– confused 3rd-grader accounts of playground drama, classroom procedures, and the latest game she and the neighbor girls made up which probably involves doing something they’re not supposed to do.
Yesterday, after G had rambled for eight minutes on the subject of where she puts her math papers when they’re finished, I had to cut her off. It made her cry. It’s rough being the mean mom.
We find ourselves lingering long after our bellies are full, discussing what happened in R’s world history class or the latest book Art read. We laugh and joke, and at least once every meal I have to repeat the rule, “We don’t discuss our bodily functions at the table.” I do have two boys, after all. Three if you count the big one at the head of the table.
People keep asking how we’re doing, and the answer is we’re doing well. Adjusting? Slowly but surely. Struggling to wake up in the morning? Definitely. Really really tired? Absolutely. But God gives grace. And He has reminded me in about six different places in the last week that He is strong enough, even though I’m not.
He has helped me listen to my little verbal processor tell me all the words about her life, even when I really just want to tuck her in and go read a book. He has helped me handle grumpy, out-of-sorts kiddos who just need to decompress. He has given me the privilege of seeing my seventh grader doing so much better than he was last spring. Y’all. I don’t know if S’s brain has matured, or if it’s just because he’s getting more one-on-one time with me with fewer distractions, but this kid is rocking it.
Sometimes the enemy attacks my mind with fear, but God is bigger than my fears. God has my kids, my family, in His good hands. He uses every challenging situation to bring us closer in relationship to Him– to help us grow. I believe that, and I am determined to live it, even on the days when the stories my kids tell me fill me with anger or anxiety.
God has put all of us in a place where, if we dig in, we can grow. And I can’t wait to hear tonight about the ways He’s growing my kids, as we sit around this old table and pass the food.