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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

How Children can Learn Respect for God and Others at the Table

My Dad used to say to us kids (in support of my mom who cooked the meals), “You kids have two choices for dinner this evening: Take it or Leave it."

If we chose to “leave it”, we didn’t eat anything till the next meal was served. No snacking allowed! If we chose to “take it”, that meant that we ate everything on our plates. I don’t remember ever choosing the menu option to “leave it”.

Sitting at the table daily with my dad and mom, older sister and younger brother (yes, I was a middle child), profoundly influenced me for good.

One of the most important things I learned at the table was respect for God, for the various people and their functions in the family, as well as respect for the family unit in general. Eating family meals together taught me:

Respect for my mom who prepared three meals every day. Lunches were packed daily for Dad to eat at work and for us kids to eat at school. Breakfast and supper were eaten at the table. Now that I prepare meals for my own family and realize what hard work it is just to get good food put on the table, I stand in awe of my mom who committed to serve her family in this very basic but extremely important way. (Learn here how we can serve our husbands and children by providing nourishing meals as did my mom.)

Respect for my dad who went to work every day to bring home "the bacon" and insisted that we all spend time eating that bacon together around the table. My father had some priorities as the head of the home and seeing that we all came together for meals was one. He knew that it was important that we connect with one another and also that we commune with one another. He understood the value of family "community". He was a wise man and I thank God that he was my earthly father.

Respect for the way things were done in our home for the well-being of all in our family. I learned that a family functions together. My dad, a Christian man, was committed to leading the family, even in this seemingly minor way. He grew up on a farm and knew the importance of real food, ie, eggs for breakfast rather than sugary sweet breakfast cereals, etc. As a Christian husband, he took the lead in this and my mom, being his complimentary counterpart, made the meals happen three times each day, every day. They functioned like a left hand helping the right more dominant hand. The example of how a husband and wife can work together in the home was lived out daily for me.

Respect for the food itself, as it was real, nourishing and was provided by God’s creative and loving hand. I learned that one of the first gifts God gave to Adam and Eve was food - delicious, nutritious food. Food is God's love made edible. He gave plant foods to man in the garden of Eden before man chose to disregard God's one directive. Later, after the flood, God also added animal foods to man's diet. This is what real food is and this is what we ate every day at the table. 

Respect and gratitude toward God for having provided for us. We never went hungry, though occasionally we ate a meager but filling meal of beans, etc. However, Mom always made it seem like a meal fit for a king as she worked her magic in the kitchen turning even that meager meal into a delicious gift to her husband and children.

Respect for the health of my own body and the health of my future children. That may sound a little strange. But again, my dad had his priorities and he was wise. One of the reasons we always had breakfast around the table was Dad wanted us to start out the day by being nourished so that we would have the nutrients needed to excel in body and mind. He would tell us that it was important for our health individually and for the health of the next generation, "What you eat now will have an impact on the health of your children in the future." And he was right. (Link here to read an article about this.)

How I’d love to see families cooperating like this again. I fear that this simple, slow-paced, thoughtful way of living has been hijacked by the almighty dollar and a general busyness that is ultimately unproductive. It saddens me that we may never recover such wise and skilled parenting.

Thank you, Dad and Mom! I’m so glad that you taught me to respect others at the table. And I’m so thankful that there were only two options on the menu for each meal. Your hard work and dedication will never be forgotten.

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

How Children can Learn Respect for God and Others at the Table