Even with a simple menu, a lot of work and planning goes into making family mealtime a reality. So what do you do once everyone is seated around the table?
We’re going to share just a couple of traditions that defined Mahaney family dinners over the years. This is not to say dinnertime at our house was perfect—like any family we had conflicts, rushed meals, seasons where nothing extraordinary seemed to happen. However, by strategically using dinnertime to make memories our family bond was strengthened.
My favorite dinnertime activity was when Dad read aloud to us after dinner. Sometimes he would read one chapter and we’d all scoot off to various meetings or activities. Other days we would sit with unwashed dishes late into the evening—all engrossed in the story. Predictably, when we’d come to the end of an especially moving book, Dad would be overcome with emotion and unable to finish. Someone else would have to volunteer.
Dad used breakfast (when everyone was fresh) for Bible study and theological teaching. After dinner reading was amusement with a purpose. Over the years, Dad read us numerous biographies, history books, and works of literature.
Particularly vivid in my memory are the many books we read on the African-American experience: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Help Me Remember, Help Me Forget, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry to name a few. Dad wanted to be sure we understood—as best as white suburban children can—the tragic history of slavery and racism in our country.
The Chronicles of Narnia were a favorite and so was The Hiding Place, Through Gates of Splendor, Deadline and Dominion by Randy Alcorn and Our Town. Most recently, Dad, Mom and Chad have been enjoying The Complete Calvin and Hobbes and Letters From A Nut.
It has been said that books can take you places you’ve never been. By reading together after dinner, our family shared many experiences and went many places—together.