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When my oldest child was a baby, I read lots of wonderful parenting books. I studied thoroughly how many times a day Jackson would need to eat, how often he should sleep, when he should potty, what to do if he didn’t potty, how many hours of belly time he required each day, and exactly how many minutes I should let him cry before rushing to comfort him. (Remember those days? Maybe you're still there!) We slowly added more babies to our family, and they ate all the time, never slept, pooped whenever they wanted to, were tossed to their bellies by well-meaning siblings, and cried – A LOT – hopeful they might get comforted.
Well, of all the great books I read back then (and they really were helpful, at the time anyways!), one of my favorites was a book titled Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kenison. Instead of writing about how to raise the perfect child (really how to raise the perfect momma . . .) she reminds readers to slow down and enjoy this precious time with their little ones. In one of my favorite chapters she writes about making meal times sacred, and adding meaning to our hurried moments spent around the dinner table.
In the years since reading those books our family and mealtimes have changed. The nights spent bouncing a colicky baby through dinner while stuffing veggies into a close-mouthed preschooler have passed, and we’ve moved on to evenings where we stuff dinner down before rushing out the door to yet another activity or settling down to homework. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for the opportunities my children have to play sports, enjoy friends, and learn new talents. But a tiny part of my heart aches for those nights patiently bouncing up and down (I remember thinking at least I got my leg work out in each night!)
Throughout the years, my kids have craved this same thing. They still beg for a few moments of uninterrupted attention (I think even my big-old-almost-ten-year-old wouldn’t mind bouncing with me, although we'd have to jump side by side!) One of the things Katrina mentions in her book is adding value to mealtimes by lighting a candle, turning on quiet music, using special plates, and beginning dinner with a simple Grace. While we don’t do it often enough, occasionally we take time for these things. All three of my children love little more than setting a special table (they grab every odd colored candle they can find), and sharing with us about their day. I’d love to tell you that we say some fabulous prayer each night, but to be honest all we say is the traditional “God is Great . . . .”, maybe with a short addendum if something special happened that day. (We were out with family the other night and my son pointed out that we missed Grace; already it matters to him!)
What I'm realizing all too quickly is that these simple moments are fleeting. These days of candlelit meals (not the least bit romantic but awfully cute) won't last nearly as long as I'd like them to. Today Jackson will be thrilled to play maitre d' to his baby sisters and the girls will be tickled to don their princess tiaras to the dinner table. Like I said, we don't take moments for sacred meals very often, but I have to make them a priority. Because those colicky babies have begun to grow up, and I hope one day they'll share fairy tale dinners with their own families.
(Remember that it doesn't have to be anywhere near perfect to be beautiful? Here's proof.) 😉