By Brenna O’Dea
By now we have spent our Mindful Mondays mulling over mornings at the farmer’s market, adventures-en-mise-en-place, and beautiful bread baking. This week we bring you a Thoughtful Thursday post, and we hope you all had a delightful and delicious Memorial Day. This week we bring you the grand finale…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…it is time…to SIT. No, that is not an acronym. I literally mean sit down on your tush. Sit back, relax, enjoy the show…not the one on tv, the real one, this crazy cool show called LIFE. I’m talking about taking some extra time during and after your next family meal to slow down and linger a little longer at the dinner table. Whether you are grilling up all natural organic grass fed burgers over your sustainably fueled fire pit, or scarfing down Thai takeout in front of last week’s episode of The Voice because your DVR is drowning…sometimes that’s just how the night goes…take a moment to step back, and stay seated. Don’t all go rushing off to your own corners of the house immediately after you are done chewing. Spend some extra time talking to each other, listening to each other, digesting your dinner and digesting good conversation.
Summer can be an interesting time. It can be a time when routines shift and things feel all shaken up. This can either make us stress out, or bliss out. Change can be scary. It can also be spectacular. The sun is shining (at least on most days…) and school is coming to a close. We can almost taste the ooey gooey s’mores and melty messy ice cream cones. (And fresh-from-the-garden veggies too!) As those veggies are growing, so are your little ones, and they might be more eager than ever to get out of the house and get far from home. Vacation season is certainly in full swing, but sometimes we all need a nice night in, at home, around the table, with some homemade eats at the tips of our fingers and some stories on the tips of our tongues.
I come back to this piece from The Atlantic quite often. Written nearly three years ago, still so relevant, maybe even more so today. “The Importance of Eating Together” is about just that, why we should, why we must, take the time to slow down and catch up with our loved ones, and why meal time is the perfect time to do it. You may have heard that ol’ saying, education is the great equalizer, well food can be too. (And just imagine what we can accomplish with food education!!) Food brings people together. Think about it. Think about your last holiday gathering. Was food involved? Was food an integral part of this get together with friends and family? The answer is probably yes! Whether you are making Christmas cookies or matzo pizza, or just relaxing after a long day with a big ol’ box of Valentine’s Day chocolates, chances are, if there is something to celebrate, there is something to snack on. Food can also bring us together in the tough times. The loss of a loved one or the loss of a job, we often bring food to those who are feeling down as a way to lift them back up. Even if a close friend is having a stressful week, whatever the reason may be, taking some time to slow down, share a meal, and talk it out can do the trick in turning the day around.
Talking it out is just as important, maybe even more important, when building strong relationships and mindful habits in your little ones. Designate dinner time as story time, a time for relaxation and human connection. Disconnect from Internet and connect with each other. I know, I know, this might sound daunting, seriously. Your inbox is overflowing, your Instagram feed is flooded, and your brain is already bursting with everything you have to do on your to-do list tomorrow. But guess what? If you take two hours, even one hour, once a day, or once a week, to slow it down and enjoy some semi-fine dining with family…IT WILL ALL BE OKAY. Your laptop will be waiting for you in the morning, but your first grader’s story about what they did in school that day might not be. They may have already moved on from caring about kickball to karate and you may have missed the opportunity to make a new memory.
If you are seeking some wisdom on how to spark the conversation when it lags on Monday night…we all know how it goes…you just want to chow down and hit the hay…check out these awesome resources from The Family Dinner Project: Food, Fun, and Conversation About Things That Matter. And if focusing on the conversation sounds more like a distraction from dinner than a delightful dining experience, not to worry. Here are a few super simple mindful eating tips to make your next meal more relaxing than a hot stone massage…or at least almost as relaxing. It can be as simple as remembering to SIT DOWN TO EAT. I mean, duh, right? Well it is easier said than done. I know that I have found myself on many an occasion scarfing down something while I am still standing, or even pacing around the kitchen with really no purpose. CHILL OUT PEOPLE. And one of my favorite tips of all time…unitask. Say what? U-ni-task. The multitasking mind can be a spectacular thing. It can also be a stressful thing. What if we treated eating like driving? We wouldn’t watch an entire season of a tv show while we cruise down the highway…hopefully…so why would we do it during dinner time? We shouldn’t be spending time scouting out deals on Amazon on our morning commute, so skip that activity during your afternoon snack. When ya drive, DRIVE. When ya eat, EAT. How easy is that!?
So share some food and share some love. Let yourself linger and laugh for a little longer than you might be naturally inclined. You just might find yourself leaving the dinner table with a fuller belly, and a fuller heart.