How to Have a Meaningful Weekday Meal

We have a special episode for you and that is how to have a meaningful weekday meal. Now, if you’ve listened to this podcast long enough or if you’ve kind of engaged with some of the other family team stuff, you know we’re big on whether you call it a Shabbat meal or a high Zenith big picture party meal once a week. This is not what we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about in the micro, like you have to eat every day, multiple times per week anyways, or multiple times per day. So we’re just saying how can you kind of take advantage of that in a really small micro way, not the huge family meal, once a week to just make it a little bit more meaningful because you have to eat anyways. That’s our philosophy and so we try to put as much easy training or meaning at the table as possible because like I said, you have to sit there and eat anyway. So Jeremy, what would you say about how to have a meaningful, easy, simple weekday meal or little things you guys do?

Yeah. This is a huge way that you shape your family’s culture. And I didn’t really have a vision for this for a long time until I watched a documentary about Thomas Jefferson and he had this house he built called Monticello. And the documentary was talking about what a night, the typical night at Monticello was like, what Thomas Jefferson would do. And it described that there was always an epic conversation going on about.

Like there’s something that was going on in those meals. And I didn’t realize that’s what was happening. And part of what they would do is they would have these epic conversations, topics that would come up about like liberty and about democracy, all the things that we’ve learned from Thomas Jefferson or a lot of the other founders of America. Because there were deep conversations going on and they talked about how they’d often retired into the parlor and this conversation would go on for four hours. And that was a typical night at Monticello. And so when I saw that, I’m like, okay, that’s kind of crazy high bar. Maybe you got like three year olds or something. You’re like, okay, how does that relate to us?

Yeah, let’s solve theodicy and God’s evil and Providence in one table conversation.

But I would say that one of the things I would, the way that I think about how to like engage in a table conversation with my kids is whatever I am thinking about throughout the week, I want to cut up into little bite size nuggets, and try to feed it to them. Maybe one smidge level above where they’re at. Because I want to stretch them a little bit. So maybe there’s something going on in politics or something going on in theology or something in your Bible reading or it’s just something that happened at work or whatever that’s on your mind that you maybe have thought about, journaled about. And you could just be kind of the clam at the table, which a lot of dads are. I know that I have that capacity to just sort of sit there and be tired and not very verbal, I’m sort of introverted. So that’s a challenge for me.

But I think when I really push into this or lean into this, I want to like bring up topics and just like engage my kids into a conversation that really stretches them intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and I don’t want to invent topics or feel like this is some big burden. So all I try to do is, it’s about a 10 second two step process. What am I thinking about? Okay this is kind of what’s on my mind and then how can I cut that up into bite sized pieces that might initiate a conversation at the table? And this could happen of course between you and your wife, if your kids are really small and you can let them sort of listen in and you can try to engage them as they’re able. But as they get older you want them to be like really stretching to go, what is mommy, daddy talking about? Like, what is this topic about? Why does it matter to them and it’s a powerful thing that you can create at the dinner table and make that time really interesting and meaningful for your family.

Totally. And I will say me being a little bit more talkative, I cannot wait till something like … I know the Bethkes are going to be that table where we’re discussing crazy things, deep things, long tables. But for now with the four year old, two year old, we try to go a little simpler but I can’t wait for those days. And so a couple of quick tips. Dads out there, if it’s younger, we try to do really small bite size things that are almost, I like to say liturgical. So just these things that are just getting pounded into their head in like 60 second ways, just day in, day in, day in, day in and out. And so we do a couple things.

One of them is we call it the breakfast benediction, and it’s actually a prayer or a liturgical phrase, if you want to call it that. Or almost like a creed that we found from Bobby Schuller, pastor in California. He doesn’t call it the breakfast benediction. It’s actually this thing he does. He’s a pastor and it’s actually the benediction for the church where they stand up, they raise their palms and they say the benediction to start the service. And I think it’s like, I’m not going to do the whole thing. But it’s, you say like, I’m not what I do. I am not.

What’s the other one? Oh, I’m blanking on it right now. And it says, “I am a child of God. I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to hurry.” It’s just like a declaration of truth from the scripture. Things that you are not and things that you are, and we literally do that every single morning to start breakfast. It takes probably 45 seconds. The kids love it. We’ve made it almost kind of a fun thing where you can say it in funny voices, you can say it however you want. So there’s that one.

We do a thing where we go around and say what we’re thankful for every single day. Anytime we’re at the table and because we want to create a culture of micro thankfulness. Not like, oh, I’m thankful that I got this huge gift or we went on this huge trip. But it’s like, oh, I’m thankful that we get to eat right now. Kinsley will say like, “Oh I’m thankful for Aslan, our dog and I got to pet him. He’s so soft.” Like it’s just random little things that you’re thankful for, creates a culture of that.

And then what’s the last one? There was one other one I was thinking of. I’m not sure I can remember, but essentially what I think guys is why this is important, is it doesn’t have to be big, it can be micro. And that’s actually where a lot of the power is. And then two, any study on like any other religions or people groups or whatever that have a high view of a table always … I mean that have a high view of family, always have a high view of the table. It’s the place where this stuff happens. It’s the place where this stuff, where you form a family identity, where you form a family culture and you’re playing the long game. So you’re thinking about what this is going to do over 20 years at the table, not what this is going to do in two days.

So whether that’s the Jewish people who obviously crush at the table and have an amazing theology of the table. Every single holiday they have is surrounded and taught through food and taught through the table. Whether that’s Amish people who have a high view of family, who, they always have three books at the table. It’s the Bible, a songbook because they sing songs together and then Martyrs Mirror, which is essentially their Fox’s Book Of Martyrs. And so they basically tell the story of the church, sing songs about the church, and then read about the Lord all the time at the table. There’s a bunch of little different things, but it’s very clear that there’s a connection between strong tables, strong family. So yeah, we hope you guys enjoyed that one. Take those tips. Take those small ones. Unless Jeremy, did you have anything else?

Yeah, just don’t be afraid to hold forth at the table a little bit. Don’t be domineering in a way that turns off your kids, but definitely they want to know what’s banging around inside of your head. They want to get close to that. And so I think it’s important that, that become a part of the culture. So what you’re thinking about, try to express, try to initiate and get into their heads, ask open ended questions. But be a leader of table discussions, like learn the skill of holding forth, being conversational, having deep discussions, bringing up good topics, leading the conversation somewhere meaningful. And man, that’s going to be a rich place. It’s where education really is founded I think in a lot of homes is around what happens at the table and you as a dad can really shape that.

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