For quite some time, I have bemoaned the growing separation of our older children on the Second Level of the House, from the Parents, located on the First.
Many tricks have been tried.
I have begged and cajoled and lectured and flat-out scolded, with the sole intent of wanting them ‘down here’ to hang out with us (me). I have mentioned the red stool that sits in the corner, and how I love it when they sit and chat with me while I am working in the kitchen. I have complimented the beautiful tunes that get played on the piano, not to mention the singing.
But all the pleading has not brought them around any more often (although I love those magic moments when they do appear and I see their beautiful faces).
I chalk up this growing separation to age, growing teens, and perhaps my less than exciting personality.
But what I have found does bring them around… is food.
Works like a charm.
Speaking of food. Lately, Sunday meals have been about lingering. As a family, we sit at the table a little longer than usual, and just talk. Even for 5-10 minutes—that’s lots of time to get a feel for the pulse of our teenagers and what is going on in their lives. As a mom, I have always insisted on meal time together. This is a non-negotiable in our house.
Recently, one of my children had a friend over for supper. I later asked what the friend thought of our family sit-down meals, and she said that it was ‘different’ for them to come to our house, a place where we all eat together, we all stay around the table, and we all help with the clean-up. But I think the difference was a good one. I know that this insistence on everyone eating together has formed itself into a routine and habit which will probably carry itself forward into their own adult lives and merging families. Although it started with my belief that “if I make a meal, I want my people around the table”, it has grown into so much more.
Now, it has become more about building relationships.
One thing eating meals together has allowed for our family is talk. While I may not get the kids lingering afterwards to chat long into the evening (a dream!): I do have them in my company for that 15 to 20 minutes that spans the meal. Yes, we often fight—I will not romanticize these mealtimes and make them into something they are not. They can be angst-filled and hard to stomach (literally). But, if we do have heated discussions, at the very least, we are communicating.
That’s a win for me.
Tonight, I was ‘so’ not wanting to make my way to the kitchen. It just felt like unnecessary work. And I feel lazy on those Sunday afternoons which happen to be the rare occasion I get to sit and rest. However, I started to dig out the cookbook, mixing bowls, and ingredients—in preparation for making some yummy orange muffins. As soon as I had started gathering a few items for baking, I heard a daughter ask if she could help. And then another ask what I was baking. And by the time the muffins had been prepared, spooned carefully into their individual muffin cups and baked to golden perfection, I had all three girls in the kitchen with me: chatting, reading, studying, eating.
They were here.
Thinking creatively has been my new mantra. If the old ways don’t work, then figure out a new way that’s gonna do the trick.
As parents of four teens, we often feel we are outside of their lives and happenings. But I have found that there are some really creative ways to draw them back ‘in’ again, satisfying that longing to connect that is such a deep part of being a parent (and mama); one of those ways to connect is through food. If you bake it, they will come!
And I would be remiss if I did not share that another way a friend has mentioned (that I have used many a time) is road-trips! Even those short jaunts to the grocery store and back are fantastic opportunities. The car is a marvelous place to talk, as you don’t have to be looking eye to eye (for those awkward topics). And sometimes it is the best place to bring up a difficult subject, as no one can bolt! Whatever works! It is just golden when you have those precious moments…those special memories…which linger in our minds, long after the last muffin is scarfed down with a glass of milk. Long after the supper table has been cleared.
Tonight, I am thankful for storm “muffins” and the memories they will hold in my mind…along with the precious time they gave me with three growing, gorgeous girls. Here’s to food and the gathering of your people! Happy eating and chatting, my friends!