There’s a handful of things our family has made long term, non negotiable, bets on. One of those is making the table central to our family, and centering our lives around it. So much so that “the table” is even one of our family’s 8 pillars in our mission and vision statement (a few of you have asked about this before, thinking about sharing it down the road). If you’ve read It’s Not What You Think and the whole chapter on the table, you know the table is a sacred space where heaven and earth collide if we let it. You laugh, you cry, you tell stories at the table. You get given an identity around the table. And secondly, the research is actually enormously lopsided in just how stark a contrast it paints of its importance.
The Atlantic Monthly compiled the data and found that our culture’s loss of the table has had “quantifiable negative effects both physically and psychologically” on our families and kids. Want to know the number factor to raising kids who are drug free, healthy, and intelligent? Frequent family dinners. The number one shaper of vocabulary in little kids? Not events or play, but frequent family dinners. One of the best safeguards to childhood obesity? Frequent family dinners. The variable most associated with lower levels of depression and suicidal thoughts among teens? Frequent family dinners.
And here’s the fun part, the data never suggests a 5 course meal.
Shoot, make it PB&J, but realize that the table is about relationship and storytelling and identity, not about what you eat, day after day after day. And especially Christians, have a lot to learn from our Amish and Jewish counterparts who do the identity shaping table beautifully and better than most of us. And so we’ve put the flag in the ground in our family for years and now it’s all of our favorite parts of the day. And this doesn’t mean we romanticize it. With toddlers it’s hilariously messy, but we have the opportunity to shape our kids love for the table. So we do little things like having a basket of books next to our table and we rotate through a new book each night as a fun way to lengthen our time and table together. And it’s been a bet we are so happy we made years ago.