“What’s for dinner, Mom?” After answering that question at least a thousand times over a lifetime of raising children, you may not realize how much more is being served than just what’s on the menu. When families regroup at the dinner table, they are not only eating, but also focusing on each other through conversation, sharing the day’s experiences and asking questions that look into the heart of each family member. As parents exchange news of the day, they communicate their values. We all ask, “What’s new? Did you have a good day? Who did you play with? How was school?” As our children respond, they reveal not just what happened in their lives, but what is happening in their heads and hearts. People who spend many years breaking bread together on a regular basis develop a lot of ‘togetherness.” It’s no wonder so many people have such vivid memories of sharing meals in their childhood homes.

I don’t remember many purposeful conversations at our family dinner table while I was growing up. Most of the hours blended into small talk about friends, homework, and plans for tomorrow. At the time, those conversations didn’t seem that important to me. Reflecting back on those years, I realize it wasn’t one specific conversation that made the difference, rather it was the memories accumulated as we sat laughing and talking around the table that have meant the most.

This weekend we are celebrating my granddaughter’s first birthday. As we gather around the dinner table- enjoying conversation and food prepared not by me now, but instead by the children who I cooked for for so many years, I am reminded again how precious the gift of family is. Watching my own children, now grown adults, love each other and share life together makes me thankful for those family conversations shared while they were growing up. What stays with us most from those innumerable family mealtimes is the feeling of knowing how important we all are to one another—important enough to make us stop everything, leave behind the outside world and gather around the dinner table to share our lives. Next time you are asked what’s for dinner, just smile. Someday your children will really understand what was being served.

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