Do your dreams get crushed every Friday night when the Shabbos table fails to be the place of your dreams?
This post was a conversation between the five of us on the topic of: the Shabbos table.
Tables Have Stages
“I remember, when my children were a bit younger, after a day of shopping and cooking and running everywhere, Shabbos would finally come, and they’d all come home from shul. And it could have been right before washing or right after, but at some point before the meal could barely begin, one child would do something annoying to another child, and the other child would beat him up, and there would be some screaming and sulking and one or more children would end up in their room (usually one was escaping the bigger child, and one was punished). During the stage/phase, I was crushed, every single week. This was what I worked so hard for? Another fight? It seemed as if they specifically waited until that moment to fight!
A few years passed since then, and you know what? I hardly remember that phase! I didn’t remember it at all until we began this discussion about the Shabbos table. Those fighting kids matured into teenagers who don’t really fight like that anymore and want to be at the table (they like my food) and I so very much enjoy their company. Since they like to be at the table, it becomes the place to be. The teenagers have interesting conversations and the younger children want to be included and be there too!
Kids go through ages and stages…that we can’t control. The only thing we can control is ourselves, how we respond and how we feel….”
The Mom Controls the Mood
“….Children will only remember the mood, how they felt. They will not remember what you said or what you did. It’s the mother’s mood that’s the mood of the house. When there is a bad vibe, the mother is the only one in the house who has the power to change it…”
“…Do you every wonder.. why us? It’s always us right?….”
“…Yes, it’s a pressure. But it’s also a power….we can only change how we feel and how we act. We can’t control our husband or kids. Kids are going to fight. But if mommy is a constant, kids will remember the yummy cozy Shabbos feeling–that comes from you.”
“….It doesn’t matter how much you slaved. If a mother complains, ‘I worked so hard and this is what you do!’ and she acts all upset, it will just ruin the mood for everyone. Yes, you worked hard. You’re not going to get the round of applause in this world. You worked hard and Friday night after Friday night is not turning out how you envisioned, be calm and move on. This stage will change; it won’t always be like this. If there’s a kid missing from the table, paste on the smile and give a different kid a hug.”
“…It’s important for the mother to love Shabbos. If you’re stressed to make this or that extra item, it’s not good. No one will know if you cut something out of your menu. If you will be more relaxed, more calm, it’s worth it…you need to also make it special for yourself, and that feeling of looking forward to Shabbos will spill over to the kids. Make/buy things you like for yourself too, sleep a little later, get yourself a good book to enjoy. The feeling of enjoying Shabbos and craving Shabbos is contagious and we can spread that…”
“….I know a teenage girl who says she hates Yom Tov.. That’s so sad. Why is it? She doesn’t have the big to-do list like her mother does; she doesn’t have the stress of shopping, cooking, and hosting. She was asked, ‘Does your mother say she hates Yom Tov?’ She nodded. Her mother expresses her stress, her feelings of being overwhelmed…so that spills over to the daughter, even if she doesn’t have the same tasks.”
Let Them Be
“…if this kid is happy sitting on the couch next to the table reading…it’s better than if he’s sitting straight at the table kicking someone next to him…Kids should be there if they want to be there, not forced to be there. You’ll build more connection to the table if you let them be. Little kids often can’t sit so long.”
“…It’s normal for kids to be kids, even on Shabbos.”
“….It’s human nature, that when someone is told what to do, they don’t want to do it. When a child (even an adult child!) is told, “Sing zemiros,” they either won’t listen. Or they’ll do it because they’re forced and not like it. It’s so much better when they come to doing these things on their own; they’ll enjoy it so much more.”
“….You are in charge of the mood/tone, and of course, usually the food, but your husband will run the table the way he likes. What he wants to talk about (whether it’s the parsha or totally not), whether or not he likes to sing, that’s all up to him. Kids add a lot to the table, and sometimes as they get older, they’ll do things that your husband doesn’t…but it’s not for you to get frustrated about what’s happening or not happening.”
“Remember, that perfect vision of that perfect Shabbos table, the one we see in our minds, or in illustrations or even your neighbors house, is usually, not the norm. You might get a few minutes of that. But it isn’t realistic to strive for that level of perfection. Your Shabbos meal, however chaotic, is just perfect. It’s up to us to be happy and project happiness–and decide to be happy–no matter what is going on that isn’t under our control.”