Meals are for connecting: 5 ways to build relationships in the kitchen
by Christia Colquitt
Have you ever read something that completely changed your mindset?
The kind where you could not get it off your mind until you did something about it.
I remember the day well that my mindset completely changed.
The book Hands Free Mama had been tucked away in my closet for over a year before I gathered up the courage to open it.
I was terrified.
I was afraid to go Hands Free.
I knew my life would not be the same.
What terrified me became one of the greatest gifts.
I began to enjoy life and cherish my children.
I started to say yes to time and moments with my family.
I started to say no to distractions and my to-do list.
With this new mindset in mind, one of my biggest frustrations continued to be mealtimes.
I had planned the meals, shopped for the food, and cooked the meals every day, three meals a day, almost every day of the year.
I soon began to realize that while I was doing all of this work, I was distracted for most of the actual meal time.
With my new mindset, I started to notice that mealtime can be such a fantastic time to connect with my kids.
I was spending meal times doing chores, checking my phone, and answering e-mails. Rarely sitting down to enjoy the time with my kids.
The kids were busy eating, so I figured it was a rare spare moment for me to do something else that needed to get done.
But now with my hands free mindset, I was not willing to let meal times slip away.
Here are five things I am doing to make the most of the precious meals I have left with my children:
1. No electronics of any kind.
While this has always been a strict rule for the kids, I have found that there are times (especially during lunch) that I will check my phone, answer emails, and catch up on social media.
I began to notice that I would half answer their questions and concerns while I was staring at my phone.
No more of that!
Meal times are for conversation.
And I am now sitting down with my kids. Not just at dinner, but at all meals.
I am learning to slow down.
(And as I write this, my phone has stopped working. It will not allow me to touch anything on the screen. Talk about divine intervention).
2. Promote engaging conversation
Sometimes this can take work.
These resources make meal time conversation more engaging and fun.
Some of my favorite memories include our family laughing together around the table.
3. My Day, Your Day
We have done this for years.
With five kids, there can be a lot of bickering about whose turn it is to do what, especially around meal times.
We have a calendar that rotates.
For the whole month, each day is filled with one of the children’s names.
When it is that child’s day, there are rewards as well as opportunities to serve.
For serving: “My day” means you are in charge of helping mom cook the meal, serve those at the table, as well as in charge of blessing the meal.
Rewards: If there is something to choose that day, such as a movie, TV show, or special activity, the person whose day it is gets to choose!
This calendar is such a beautiful and straightforward way to cut back on nagging and to provide opportunities for our children to serve one another.
4. Time for Review
Mealtimes are a great opportunity to review memory verses.
Recently, we memorized the 50 capitals of the United States.
Meal times can be that captive audience that we need to reinforce concepts.
I love to use placemats to learn new things with my kids during meals.
5. Build chores around mealtimes
We have a chart that rotates weekly for mealtime chores.
I like to keep the same chores for a week to build their skills on that particular chore.
In our home, we have a child who clears the counter or table and loads the dishes. Another is in charge of wiping down the counter and table, and we also have someone in charge of sweeping after each meal.
Meal times need to be lived with intention. It just takes a little planning to make it happen.
Can you see what a difference being hands free is making in my life?
By slowing down, putting away the to-do list, and realizing the opportunity that was right in front of me, meal times no longer drive me crazy.
Instead, they are the perfect time to connect.
Connection with our children is what motherhood is all about.
Even when life is busy and crazy, finding time for that connection makes all the difference.
As Rachel Macy Stafford says in Hands Free Mama:
“No matter how much my child wants to, needs to, or would love to, they cannot kiss a moving target.”
I have vowed to stop being a moving target. Will you join me?