I saw a funny clip on Instagram of a mom telling her kids, “You have soccer at 5:00, and you have dance at 7:00, so we can eat dinner at 4:00 or 9:00.” I feel this. In reality, my husband and I have intentionally protected our children’s schedules, careful to not allow them to become over-extended in extracurricular activities. But, also in reality, the older they get, the more involved each activity becomes. Whether it is band, or volleyball, or choir, the time required for each activity exponentially grows as they grow.
Weeknight dinners around the table have become a rarity, and as a person who values cooking dinner and time spent together at the table, this pains me.
Aside from getting creative in how we feed our children during the week, there is one tradition that grounds my dinner cooking practice and keeps me from feeling like dinner is a lost dream. Sunday Dinner is how I create the space for our family to eat together, and today I want to explore this idea with you.
Sunday Dinner started years ago, when we only had two kids in their toddler years. We were huge Soprano fans, and each week, we would gather with some dear friends to watch the new episode on HBO when it dropped on Sunday evening. Watching Tony and Carmella make it a priority to sit down for Sunday dinner with their family inspired us to do the same. We began cooking a meal and eating it together before watching the show. The practice allowed us to invite others to join us, and it created a weekly rhythm of planning for and anticipating one intentional meal.
Aside from modeling the dinner habit of our favorite television family, a beautiful side effect emerged. We looked forward to Sunday dinner. We anticipated the meal, the time spent with our community, and the chance to break bread and pour wine and taste the goodness of food cooked with love and care.
After the Sopranos came to an end, we continued the practice of Sunday dinner and carried it with us as we moved and had more children. There have been seasons where we engaged in Sunday dinner more faithfully and other seasons where it has fallen by the wayside, but whenever I feel the fabric of our family becoming threadbare, I prioritize Sunday dinner and protect it fiercely.
Lately, Sunday dinner is making a resurgence in our home. For me personally, I need the space to cook with abandon, to try new recipes, to make something special, to try new recipes or prepare favorites. For my family, we need to sit and savor a meal together before the hurricane of the coming week hits us. For our hospitality practice, Sunday dinner allows the space for an impromptu dinner invitation.
My parameters for Sunday dinner few, but they matter to me.
I always prepare a dessert, showcasing the sweetness of life and creating a sense of specialness for the meal.
I try to always include wine and bread, because I believe the sacred space of the table is exactly what Jesus modeled for us during His time on earth. Each time we break bread and pour wine, we remember He is the bread of life and the one true vine. It is a silent reminder of the power of communion.
I set the table, even if it is simple, because it communicates a particular sense of occasion and purpose. It also provides an opportunity for my kids to see and know where forks and knives and napkins belong. None of these things are openly communicated with words, but I know the power of pattern and how the actions we take on a repeated basis create an inner knowing in our children that will surface when they are older.
Sometimes the meal is a success. We talk and laugh and everyone eats everything on their plate. Other times, it is a challenge. Someone’s feelings are hurt, I feel stressed, or the vibe is strained. Sometimes the food falls flat or doesn’t deliver the desired response. But Sunday dinner is a practice that grounds, reminds, and reflects the beauty of hospitality in real ways for me and my family.