In marriage preparation, I generally begin with Jesus' words in Mark 10:6-9 (where he quotes Genesis 1:27 and 2:24). One of the things I tell couples from this passage is that the best gift they can give any children that God gives them is their own strong ‘one flesh’ relationship. After all, the leaving of father and mother indicates that the husband-wife bond takes precedence even over the parent-child bond.
But how often do parents find themselves running around after their children (precious though they are), struggling to find time for each other in their busy lives? That leads me to my wife's first great idea for strengthening families.
We've always eaten together as a family, talking at the table wherever possible at breakfast and dinner. Karyn and I are thankful that this is what we both experienced, growing up in our respective families, as opposed to doing your own thing or eating in front of the TV.
However, every second Tuesday for the last few months, we've eaten apart from our kids. Karyn has got me cooking dinner for just our three daughters—something they really like, which generally involves pasta! After dinner, we give them a kiss. They know the time they are expected to go to bed, and can amuse themselves until then.
Meanwhile, Karyn cooks something special for just the two of us. We can have something a bit more interesting that the kids might not go for. And since we're not going out to a restaurant (thus saving on babysitting), we can spend a bit more on quality ingredients. (We've found the 4 Ingredients cookbooks 1 and 2 really helpful for simple but tasty recipes!)
I set the dining room table properly (instead of the one in the family room), light a candle or two, and we eat and talk. Sometimes we do this just for an hour, but that's more than we often get the rest of the time. And sometimes we do this for longer.
A simple idea, and as a result, what a blessing that time has been! It's time just for the two of us—time we've found it hard to carve out otherwise. And the kids don't seem to mind at all.
The time has been particularly helpful for tackling that perennial marital challenge: good communication. That's a good excuse for setting aside a regular quantity of time, which easily becomes quality time.
Thanks for the great idea, Karyn! (I'll talk about her second idea in my next post.)