With schools starting, this is a great time for us to start Chapter 6:Table Time at Home for Families in this blog book called Come Back to the Table: A Countercultural Call to the Christian Practice of Shared Meals. Hopefully, the preceding chapters have convinced you that sharing meals, as a distinct Christian practice, should be an important part and pattern of your daily family life. But, as any parent will tell you, mustering the family around a nightly meal can be a harrowing, energy-sucking experience. This may be particularly true for one-parent families, those in which both parents work full time outside the home or in homes with children with special needs. When I began working full time at our local hospital after years of being home all day while going to school at night, I was not prepared for the panicky rush that the dinner hour became. One of us had to eat and run back out for a meeting or school event. A child forgot to tell you on the way home that she needs a large neon-green poster board (no, the white one in the closet simply won’t do) for an ecology assignment that’s due tomorrow. Your spouse ate a big lunch out today with co-workers and isn’t hungry. Dirty breakfast dishes in the sink need clearing out before dinner preparations can begin. Lunchboxes need cleaning out. You forgot that the frozen ground beef you were counting on for tacos tonight got used up in last week’s meatloaf. The dog is starving and needs to go out, and the laundry should be started before supper to ensure that the volleyball uniform is ready for tomorrow’s big game.
Is it any wonder that the shared meal becomes sacrificed to the tyranny of more pressing issues? Yet, for me and my family, dinner together around the family dining table remained a critically important activity, and we were determined to make it all work even after I began putting in 45-hour weeks at the hospital around the same time our daughter started middle school sports. This is because the table is where we build family. It is the one time each day we can each sit in a place we call “ours” and, for even twenty blessed minutes, know we are in this life together, and that God is at its center. Miriam Weinstein believes a family evening meal “sort of forces an environment when everyone has to stop and sit down. It creates a boundary when you’re sitting around a table. It’s a designated time. It focuses attention on what is going on here and now between the people around the table. It gives us a specific time to review our day” together.
In our next post we will start to “dig in” to what this kind of family life can look like.
 Miriam Weinstein, The Surprising Power of Family Meals: How Eating Together Makes us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier, and Happier (Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press, 2005), p.74. Weinstein’s treatment of the challenges facing the regular family meal is excellent.