Sunday dinner is generally at my house. We divide up the food groups and everyone brings an offering. We set a general time and as soon as each family has completed their Sabbath day work and their individual dish has been prepared we all gather. Everyone strives to be on time, give or take thirty minutes. We serve buffet style and use paper plates and plastic utensils. Every Sunday there are anywhere between 15 and 25 men, women and children to dinner. One Sunday a month we invite my siblings and their children and grandchildren. On that Sunday we don’t take a count.
As soon as we have a majority we gather in the kitchen and in the family room. Someone stands in the middle, between the two rooms and ask the Lord to bless our food. Next we line up and dish up. Moms and dads place teaspoons of each dish on little children’s plates and then load a plate for themselves. We each find a place at the table and then, snuggled elbow to elbow, we eat and visit, and visit and visit.
It’s fun. It’s tradition. Sometimes it gets a little bit crazy. There’s lots of, “No you can’t get down until you eat you broccoli.” “You have to at least eat four bites because you’re four.” “Could someone get a towel? We’ve got a spill!” The combination of tired parents and children who are tired of sitting and being inside and who have not developed the skill of “visiting” makes for after dinner segregation. Kid-cousins move to the family room with the toys and the Living Scriptures or a very antique video of “My Turn on Earth.” The adults remain in the living room and chat.
It never looks like the Norman Rockwell picture of Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t own any silver and the china remains in the cupboard. No one wants to do all the dishes. We don’t say please pass the potatoes. We just get up and get some more. Sometimes we can’t get the little kids to all be quiet as we pray and sometimes part of the entrée arrives just as the rest of us are ready to eat dessert. The adults take turns solving squabbles amongst the kid-cousins. Generally the parent of who ever cries out the loudest is next in line as the peacekeeping force.
A couple of Sundays ago a blood-curdling scream came from the room filled with kids.
Dad calls out, “What’s wrong Ethan?”
Ethan replies, “Carson bit my leg.”
Carson’s explanation, “I didn’t mean to!”
I Know! We should have stopped and had a little Step 10 mini lesson. “Now you kids need to learn to, ‘Continue to take personal inventory and when you are wrong promptly admit it!’” But a little, “Don’t bite your brother,” and we went on with life.
In the adult room we don’t always perfectly agree about the topic at hand either, but we have learned that it’s better to talk things out than to bite.
A lot has been said recently about the value of the family dinner. Some studies show that kids who regularly have dinner with their families are less likely to turn to drugs for support. President Hinckley was a big proponent of family dinner. Sometimes as a parent I have been discouraged about doing the family things we have been commanded to do (family dinner, family prayer, family night, family scripture study) because the event always turns out less than “perfect.”
The look of our Sunday effort to dine together is not perfect. You wouldn’t find us in a church film on the value of eating together. There will not be a picture of us on the front cover of the Ensign Magazine. But we are trying. We’re giving it the best we’ve got. We believe in perfection but so far all we seem to be able to achieve is progress. No one is learning the art of formal dining on Sunday afternoon at my house. I’m not sure we are learning anything, but we are feeling the reality that we each belong to a supportive, patient, forgiving community called a family and that’s a feeling that can make a lifetime of difference. Sometimes the value of doing the right thing is so high that it’s worth doing the right thing badly.
One of the results of applying the 12 Steps to my daily life is that the Lord has helped me have the courage to do the perfect thing, the thing He asks me to do, imperfectly.
By Nannette W.
Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Copyright 2008 by Nannette W. All right reserved.
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