Until becoming a parent, I never understood the importance most families placed on sitting together to eat dinner around the same table, at the same time. How was this act of sustenance actually connecting, I often wondered growing up? If you think about it, it is strange that one of the few universal rituals we have left within the family is that of eating together. And yet, as our daughter turns 18 months old this week, actively moving in every single direction as quickly as possible, the idea of a central gathering place, whether a formally set dining table with the candles lit, or a haphazardly arranged set of footstools placed in a semi-circle around our daughter’s high chair, only grows in importance as the dinner hour approaches each night. There is something sacred in the act of slowing down, phones stowed away, simply eating together without distraction. Whether you have children, are married or not, or find yourself sharing a table with a bunch of roommates you attend university with, consider the following survey results measuring the impact of the family dinner hour from the Center for Adolescent Health and Development at the University of Minnesota (USA):
As William Doherty, Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at the University of Minnesota, concludes, mealtimes are also critically important for relational connection. “It’s one of the few opportunities families have to be together as a group, sharing in conversation,” he says. “We all have a biological need to eat and a social need to eat together.” What would it look like to begin to slowly reclaim the family dinner hour, regardless of ‘what sort of family’ you find yourself in? How could the communal act of breaking bread with regularity actually grow relational intimacy, the literal bonds that tie family together, moving you from isolation to connection, individual to family unit? Explore the reclamation of the ‘family dinner hour’ this month as a prophetic act of relational connection in an increasingly isolated world.