I always try to make sure we avoid everyone eating their own thing at their own time. Even for lunch in the summers. We sit down, pray together, and eat together. The only time that changes is when one of us has to work in the evening, and then their meal is saved for them in the fridge.
When Juan came, family meals became even more important to me. First of all, because I had to find some way to control Juan's portion sizes. It's not an easy task for him to know how much is enough. Second, I needed to show him that food and meals would always be available and prepared for him, a concept that most children learn at a very young age in the presence of a family. As his mother, I would always be there to provide for his most basic needs. Now, it isn't always easy to provide a prepared meal for a teenager when it's the age that most "kids" need to learn how to do all that on their own, so we've had to find a balance, especially with David in the house, too. There are definitely times when I go on strike for the ungrateful spirit that suddenly demands I make breakfast and lunch, and the laziness that I see in both of them as they sit on the couch and gripe because no one made them lunch. But when we don't all eat together, I definitely miss that spirit of togetherness and family time. I don't want to ever lose it, especially since we have so few years left before they both begin their own adult lives.
At my school, we follow a Breakfast in the Classroom program where a free breakfast is provided for each child when they walk into the room. They serve themselves one of everything provided (in individually wrapped packages-- such as cinnamon rolls, mini-pancakes, oatmeal cookies, sliced apples, applesauce, juice, milk, fruit, etc.). The purpose is to help all students start out the day right with a good breakfast. (I will refrain from sharing my own opinion on the program.) As I watch my kids literally nibble on their breakfast each morning, it is quite evident that family meal times are quickly disappearing in our fast-paced, over-commited society. They don't know the basics about how to eat without getting crumbs absolutely everywhere, how to eat and still have a conversation at those at the table with them, nor do they understand the concept of time passing. If I put songs up on the overhead screen for the ones who actually finish, the rest of them just sit there, staring at the screen without opening their mouth or taking a sip of their drink. I've even asked them if they eat at a table with their families, and they've told me no. They eat in front of a television, or at a table with an electronic gadget beside them.
It's downright frustrating as a teacher, wondering how much time I can allow to pass to convince them to eat rather than throw their untouched food in the trash can, yet still guard enough time to complete everything we need to academically for the day. It's definitely a battle I struggle with every single day. But more than the frustrations from a teacher's perspective, it saddens me to know why I am facing this battle--families just don't do family anymore. Everyone is running in their own direction or their eyes are too glued to some electronic gadget, be it a TV, laptop, cell phone, or ipad.
Getting together with an even bigger family can get complicated, but I am so thankful we commit to doing so every Thanksgiving. It's around the table that we can enjoy delicious food and also compliment the person who took the time to prepare it. We learn table manners, table etiquette, portion control (at least until the entree has been passed around to everyone at the table), and we learn how to converse and eat at the same time. And we practice gratitude by thanking God for the meal before we even take a single bite.
I am so thankful for all the Thanksgivings we spend with family, despite all the scheduling challenges and personality conflicts that might arise over trying to plan it. Somehow we always find ourselves around the table together and devour all the food in front of us, every year.
Mike decided to attempt smoking the turkey this year, so he got up at 2 a.m. to start it, and then continued to check it every hour or so until it fully cooked. He had no idea how it would turn out and it cooked much faster than he predicted, but the end result was amazing. We all agreed that it was the best turkey we have ever had for Thanksgiving together. Looks like Mike's got a new job every year now.
Here we all are around the table, enjoying our smoked turkey, roasted veggies, salad, macaroni and cheese, rolls, breadsticks, banana bread, and mashed potatoes. For dessert, red velvet cake and pumpkin pie, with coffee, of course.