After all four children moved out of the house, my husband and I wanted to stay in touch. They all lived within a 40-minute drive, in the city. So I invited them every weekend to a family meal at our home in the suburbs. But they didn't come, or rarely. I had to fend off resentment. After all we did for them…didn't they love us? One Sunday night my husband and I decided to go downtown and meet the kids at an outdoor festival. My daughter's boyfriend was there, and in a private conversation I shared my struggle with him. He suggested that my husband and I come meet them where they are, instead of expecting them to meet us where we are.
We tried it. Every weekend we chose a time and a place, usually a restaurant, and issued an invitation to the kids. It worked. Though we didn't get all of them every week, over the course of a month we had had good visits with all of them.
This has become a tradition for the last several years. Sometimes they bring significant others, which is wonderful. Sometimes we get all of them, and it's chattery. Sometimes we get just one, and we have a great heart-to-heart. It's always a highlight of our week.
Why does it work? The outwardly obvious reasons are that: 1) it is convenient for them, 2) they get to see siblings and parents, and 3) it is a free meal! But I believe there is something deeper that has caused Family Meal to become an enduring and endearing tradition. I think going to meet them where they are is a particularly loving way of saying, "We don't care what it takes; we just want to see you because we love you." It's also a compassionate way of showing that we understand that their young lives are busy and complicated and often stressful. Family Meal has no strings attached. It can be a haven, a place to relax and catch up. The time we spend bonding over delightful things tides us over when we have misunderstandings or disagreements.
I thank God for the wonderful relationships I have with my kids now. My cup runs over.
Roxanne Junge is a local-foods advocate. She is married to Mark Junge since 1981, has four grown children, and the first grandchild on the way. Roxanne is excited to be a grandparent and loves to watch how the Lord is shifting and shaping her children into wonderful men and women who are helping make the world an even better place.