Whether you have little ones, teens, just you and your hubby or you are single, mealtime CAN be a meaningful time of relationship building and fueling our bodies in a healthy, joyful way. You CAN develop this art with just a few tips and shifting of perspective. Take just one step this week to make mealtime meaningful.
When I was in elementary school in the fifties, we rarely went out to eat. We always ate at home – together. Dinners in the summer included fresh vegetables picked from our garden and a very small piece of meat. I remember being intrigued by the spirited conversation that sometimes went on for an hour after we all finished eating. While I didn’t always understand the topic, I loved the interaction of conversation in our family.
I am sad to say, I wasn’t able to replicate that kind of spirited, meaningful conversation in my own family – at least not without preparation. I also must admit that we have had many meals that were borderline healthy and were gobbled up so we could make it to soccer or dance class. And, gulp, yes, many times we dashed through the drive-through and tossed the hamburger wrapper on the floor of the car as we satisfied our hunger before the school event.
And I am happy to say that somewhere along the way I made a shift. I decided that I wanted mealtime to be meaningful. Okay… so EVERY meal may not be meaningful but we are doing much better than we used to. So if you would like to make your mealtime more meaningful – no matter the age or stage of life – here are some tips to help you get started.
Families with Young Children
Focus on making mealtime as calm as possible. It may not be perfect, but set the stage for when the kids are older. Make it a happy time to be together.
Families with Preteens and Teens – and even Young Adults
- At the dinner table, ask “What was the happiest thing that happened today?” or “What is one good thing that happened today?” Once everyone gets an opportunity to respond ask, “What is one thing that happened that wasn’t so great?” or “What happened today that you wish would have gone differently?”
- Make “Conversation Starters.” I have some for Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays as well as everyday get-togethers. I simply thought of lots of questions that would be fun to answer and allow us to get to know each other better, typed them up, printed them and cut into strips. I fold the strips and put them in a basket. At mealtime, each person pulls out a piece of paper. One person at a time reads and answers their question and then each person at the table answers the same question. Each person gets an opportunity to read and answer their question and allow the others to respond. Examples of questions:
- If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, which show would you choose?
- What one superpower would you like to have?
- What is something you’ve never done that you would like to do?
When my three kids grew up and our home became just my husband and me, I complained that I liked cooking for a big group but not for two. One day I got tired of hearing myself complain and decided to embrace this new stage of life. I bought some new dishes – just two plates in each design. I bought tablecloths to match the dishes. Each night I set the table complete with candles or flowers. We have VERY simple meals since we are watching our weight, but we have a lovely atmosphere. We talk more in-depth about each others’ work, plans, and ideas about events we can do together. Mealtime is special – just the two of us.
Single or Single Again
When I was in my twenties and single, “mealtime” often meant eating a bowl of oatmeal standing up while the news was on. I challenge you to treat yourself well. Buy fresh fruit and vegetables – and flowers for your table. Cook as if you are cooking for two or more and freeze the extra portions for another meal. Set a pretty table, put on nice music, and enjoy your meal. Invite someone to dinner one night each week. Schedule these special meals all at one time so they are on the calendar. Find two meals that are your “go to” meals that you prepare when you have people over. Make it a special time for you and your friend!
No matter your age or stage of life… make mealtime meaningful.