Episode 43

The Motherhood Unmasked podcast with Vanessa A. Harris Table Talk

Who’s Up for Some Table Talk?

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”

If that question gives you more “nails on a chalkboard” vibe than “music to your ears” then this episode will flip the narrative and have you anticipating your family around the table.

Yes, even your teens!

Listen to Episode 43

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Homework: Make Reservations at Home

It’s time to get family dinner on the family schedule. Pick out 3 nights a week that work for your crew. It’s even better if they’re the same 3 nights each week, so it becomes part of the rhythm. But the primary goal is getting your family around the table regularly to create a culture of connection at home.

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Episode 43 transcript

They say the way to a man’s heart is through this stomach. It’s also the way to your child’s heart and I’ll tell you how in episode 43 of Motherhood Unmasked.

Hey there, Mama Bare. Vanessa here with compassion, candor and clarity for you, the mom doing the best she can with what she has and hopes it’s enough.

I am honored you are here!

Season 5 is in full swing and we’ve been talking about legacy: legacy and letting go and legacy and lineage.
And in the last episode, I mentioned a question I regularly ask my kids at the dinner table to get them to tell me more than “fine” when I ask how their day went.

I get insight on the things they’re grappling with that they may not think to bring up or hesitate to do so.
You can listen to episode 42 for the scoop on that, but sharing that bit reminded me how much your legacy is shaped around the table.

Because as I said before, what your kids learn from you is more caught than taught and the table presents a unique opportunity to do both at once—efficiently too.

I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about sitting down and eating together that opens mouths in more ways than one. As food goes in, words come out and you never know what you might get. And it’s not about the quality of the meal or the presentation.

Obviously, as a pediatrician, I encourage you to aim to feed your children as healthy as your budget will allow.
But it can be a happy meal, a quick dinner you prepared or a full on spread grandma labored over all day.It’s not about the food as much as what you’re saying by feeding them.

When your family gathers to eat at the table, you’re conveying nurture, comfort, and value.

You’re saying, in effect, “I’m invested in who you are and who you’re becoming because I care about you. Sit with me and eat. I have time and I value you.”

Did you feel that? That buzz from being seen, known and loved. Bet you never imagined you were saying all that when you served the plates and sat down with your family.

And that disarming cocktail is the only kind I recommend!

I’ve seen it again and again. Give a child some food snd they’ll start talking about their day, how they felt about it and will even oblige you when you say tell me more. Even now that my boys are in their late teens and would much rather eat and run, they know not only is that NOT happening, I’m going invite them into conversation.
And more often than not, they share more than they intended.

Maybe that’s why they’re in a rush to leave the table. They feel vulnerable there but it’s the best kind because it’s the vulnerability that comes with feeling safe.

But if you’re part of the 70 percent of families who don’t eat together regularly, you’re missing out on the gift of table talk. The opportunity to find out what’s behind the quick answers and distracted thoughts.

And it’s a gift you give each other.

After a long school day or day at work negotiating learning, difficult personalities, and moments of rejection you can gather your family around store bought chicken and potato salad.

I know because I’ve done it!

And that simple act communicates, “Relax, you’re safe here and completely accepted. I know you. There’s so much about you I love and there’s things about you that get on my nerves. But you matter so much to me I’ve made time and created space to strengthen and encourage you.”

Ooh that’s powerful!

I remember when I first realized the importance of the family time around the table I took for granted as a child. My pastor at the time, shared how as a child his mother would never put food before him and walk off.
Even if what she wasn’t eating with him she sat with him while he ate.

He said her not putting a bowl before him and walking away like he was a dog, made him feel important—even if she just sat with him while he ate. His words grabbed me and never let go, but I don’t share it with you as a law to burden you.

I am not telling you to stop whatever you’re doing and sit down every time your child has a snack!
But I am saying part of owning your influence is creating a culture that makes room for each other around the table regularly. And in turn you get the gift of connection and access to share wisdom with your kids they may not otherwise be open to receive.

And let me tell you, access to your child’s heart—hearing their worries snd their joys—is no small thing these days.

Between the hours they’re away at school, the time they spend scrolling and the real life socializing they do, you have to be strategic in getting on their calendar.

It’s easy when they’re little and their world revolves around you. But as they branch out and are exposed to more voices, it’s wise to create a platform for yours. And I know what you’re thinking.

Vanessa, they don’t want to hear from me. They think they know everything and I’m clueless.

First of all, studies show that teens wish they had more frequent family dinners. So you’d be surprised how the ones who play hard to get end up being the most receptive. Second, even if you are clueless, you don’t have to have a clue to care. And nothing says I care like offering a plate of food and your presence. Third, while teens know more than toddlers, they don’t know better than you.

There is a reason you’re the parent and they’re not. Stay focused, Sis. You have a legacy* to establish and a child to launch.

This week’s homework is to look at the family calendar and find 3 nights a week to eat dinner together as a family. And if they can be the same 3 nights every week even better, so everyone knows to look forward to them. Remember it’s not necessarily about what you serve—although you can always add a healthy component to a store bought meal or take out.

It’s about making the time to prioritize each other in a world where you’re easily overlooked.

There are so many options to make this happen depending on your budget and time. Thirty minute meals or sheet pan dinners are great when you’re pressed for time. You can also meal prep on weekends and store it so it’s ready to go when you are. And there’s always picking up something on the way home in a pinch.

You’ll probably find it’s not so much making the time as breaking comfortable habits that’s the challenge.

In tomorrow’s email I’ll include the link to a recipe that fits the bill—a little off the shelf, a little homemade, quick and comforting, especially now that it’s fall. So look out for it in your inbox.

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Well, it’s about that time for me to see about what I’m putting on my table tonight. As always I appreciate the opportunity to serve you but before you go remember this: when it comes to you being the mother of your children—YOU are the woman for the job. Take care.

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