Breakfast, Dinner and Being an Intentional Grandmother

As we continue to be intentional about having family meals together during Meals@Home, we are going to be hearing from different people about what they do or have done to make family meals a priority. Below is a conversation with Brenda Dillon, a mother and grandmother, as she speaks about breakfast, dinner and what it means to be an intentional grandmother.

Breakfast

Thanks for sitting down and talking about Meals@Home. First off, lets start with a simple question. What is your favorite meal to prepare for your family?

I would say actually that breakfast is my favorite meal — not to cook but to eat because Shawn’s dad always cooked breakfast. Ben liked to make eggs and all sorts of bacon and all that stuff. So he would come down and make breakfast and he would make fried bagels.

Fried bagels?

Yeah, cholesterol city right! But it was just a fun thing that he always liked to do for breakfast so I got used to not doing breakfast. Usually it was eggs and bacon and fried potatoes. When we would go camping, that was a big part of it. Actually, we started camping when Shawn was 6 weeks old.

Wow. A 6 week old baby camping?

I know! Can you imagine that now? I don’t know how he talked me into that either because I’m like this protective kind of Mama. But he started cooking at that point and he would always cook breakfast. Always.

I actually used breakfast to get Shawn out of bed to get ready for church on Sundays. What I did once I learned how to make the egg sandwiches, I would put the sandwich (because he didn’t want to get up in the morning for church; he was in high school) on the counter near his bedroom and he would have to get out of bed to get it.

So I just sat the egg sandwich there and left it. Isn’t that terrible!? Mom’s going to do anything she could to get them up out of bed to get to church. Because there comes a point in high school where its not really one of their priorities. God sent me that idea and it worked! Anyway, yeah, his dad cooked breakfast.

What was breakfast like in your family?

We always ate together. That’s one of the things I would really encourage young mothers to do. When the kids were really little, we made it our purpose that nobody got up from the table until everybody was finished. That helped make conversation but it also helped, if you started younger, to make it a habit.

When the kids were really little, we made it our purpose that nobody got up from the table until everybody was finished. That helped make conversation but it also helped, if you started younger, to make it a habit.

And we always ate together. Lunch, maybe we did our own thing. But for the most part we ate every meal together.

Do you see benefits that came from that?

Well I was thinking about it the other day and my kids are very comfortable sitting around the table conversing with other people. Because when you sit at the table, you talk. And we always encouraged that it had to be encouraging conversation. It wasn’t a time for critical talk. It was a way for them to see what their dad’s day was like, what my day was like, us to see what their day was like.

We always ate together and I always valued that. You can’t have great conversations or know what their hurts are or what is bothering them or what they’re happy about by just passing by each other in the hall. And the later you try, high school and college, its too late.

You can’t have great conversations or know what their hurts are or what is bothering them or what they’re happy about by just passing by each other in the hall. And the later you try, high school and college, its too late.

Dinner

Can you talk to us about what dinner was like growing up in your house?

I was always the person that cooked dinner. Dinner, we waited…when Shawn’s dad came home he expected dinner to be on the table. This was the old days haha! And I felt like it was my job to make dinner. Nowadays the girls all say to their husbands, “What do you want for dinner,” and I’m thinking that’s your job! It’s a whole new world. But you know, we waited until he got home and we all had dinner together. There was never really a question if we ate dinner together.

Maybe that’s why I’m so baffled by our world today. Because so many things have gotten in the way. Anyway, my meals weren’t good by a long shot. Shawn and Jeannine will tell you. They are better cooks than I was. I was not a good cook.

But did it matter?

No it didn’t. When I think back to what we ate…it was hot dogs and chicken tenders. But the kids didn’t complain. One of the other things I thought was a good idea for parents to try was to encourage the kids to cook. So they have helped prepare the meal and when they sit down to eat they are more into what is happening because they have helped create the meal.

That’s what my daughter does too. You don’t have to go out to eat to include the kids in meal time. I mean when I was a mother we couldn’t afford to go out. That’s why we were eating hot dogs and chicken fingers! We didn’t have much money in those days. But my daughter makes up a weekly menu and her kids get to choose a meal they like. And we tried to do that a lot. “Oh were having spaghetti tonight. It’s my favorite.” It involves them and they got to choose.

Because lets be honest, we don’t always fix what they like. But if they know they get to choose then maybe they’ll tolerate the other days and get with the whole program.

Being an Intentional Grandmother

Do you have any experiences or stories cooking with your grandkids?

With the grandkids, I have really tried to make it a point to cook or bake with them. One of the words God has really laid on me in the last 5 or 6 years is the word intentional and every time I think about it or hear it I know that God is reminding me that I have to be intentional.

One of the words God has really laid on me in the last 5 or 6 years is the word intentional and every time I think about it or hear it I know that God is reminding me that I have to be intentional.

I value meals together. Like my daughter lives in Baltimore and it was a couple of weeks that I had not been there and I felt like God was saying you need to be intentional. So I put it on the calendar. So maybe you can’t do it every night but you can put it on the calendar and say, “Guys were clearing this.” So that’s what she and I do. And when I go, I usually cook or bring something or me and her and the girls go out. But its intentional. And that is what I try to be.

There is a lot in this world that makes it hard for that every day thing. It was easier when I was a young mother. There wasn’t all the sports that goes on. But it’s hard. If your not intentional about it, it won’t happen.

Another thing is, and 100 other moms and dads will tell you this, time flies. You will turn around and your kids will be college students and you will say, “Whew, all that sleep i lost…it was a flash.” So we don’t have a lot of time to be making those meals together.

There’s an urgency there.

There is.

You said these things don’t just happen, meals don’t just happen. It has to be something you were intentional about because you don’t just fall into them. There’s intentionality coupled with urgency.

Yes there is. Because you’ll turn around and these kids will be grown and it will be too late. And the thing with meal time is that why its so important is that people will sit down and relax and you’ll be able to talk about things, your wishes, your goals, your highs and lows that Kurt said, that you can’t do on the fly because you just don’t have time.

So your a grandmother. How have you seen cooking, baking, eating with your grandkids…how have you leveraged that time to speak into your grandkids lives?

My husband, Teresa’s dad, took the grandkids out to lunch every Sunday after church. And because as a grandparent you don’t have all that time or opportunity, if you could pick out one day a week like Sunday after church. So we started that tradition after church when Shawn’s kids were little. So at least the grandkids know that every Sunday we have lunch. And if you can’t afford to go out you just made a pot of chili or sandwiches or whatever at your house. But every single Sunday before church the grandkids will ask, “What are we doing for lunch.” There is an excitement because they know its going to happen. And I let them choose sometimes where we go. Because its easy even as a grandparent to say, “I’m tired. I’ve got all this stuff to do..” And I’ve done that. But thats when God keeps leading me back with intentionality. And I really believe that as parents and grandparents our kids are the first mission field that we have. Maybe the most important mission field.

And I really believe that as parents and grandparents our kids are the first mission field that we have. Maybe the most important mission field.

Do you have opportunities you have as a grandmother that you didn’t have as mother?

I don’t have the responsibility they have. I get to be the fun one! And the parents need that because they are stressed out doing the every day thing, paying the bills, and all sorts of stuff and I get to come along as a grandmother and do the fun stuff. “Ok lets cook today!”

Emma and I make cupcakes and she loved doing it. She wanted to try her own recipe, but I knew Jenn didn’t have time for that because she is so busy. It was a fun thing and you can talk about things. You don’t have to get deep, but whatever they are bringing up you can add God’s perspective to it or maybe a perspective from an older person that is the same as their parents, but maybe they don’t want to hear their parents. Like, “Oh Mimi said that too.” Its an added reinforcement.

I just really think God gives us kids and its a gift. I probably took it a lot more for granted when I was younger. And maybe after Benjamin got sick, I realized it was a gift that is not to be taken for granted. The time. Were not promised the time. Time is valuable. God has taught me a lot in my old age.

If you could say any other piece of advice to younger families who are just starting out or have a few years under their belt, from a personal standpoint, what would you say?

I guess to value the time God has given you together. In my situation, having lost two husbands and Benjamin being sick, that really did bring to me the idea that time is valuable. But the older you get you realize it. I feel like I had Shawn yesterday. But it is really to value time. It matters.

In my situation, having lost two husbands and Benjamin being sick, that really did bring to me the idea that time is valuable. But the older you get you realize it. I feel like I had Shawn yesterday. But it is really to value time. It matters.

The kids know who cares about them. The people who spend time with them. The people who listen to them. Its a busy world we live in. We were all at Chick-Fil-A and there was the gym zone area and there were 5 families there and every family, the parents were on the cell phone. What I would want to say is your not getting that time back. If the priority is checking your phone…I would advise that at meal time, get a phone basket and put the phone in the basket because your using valuable time.

We were at lunch on Sunday and there was a mom sitting there with one little boy with her. He sat there by himself and ate while she was on her phone the entire time. If we could see the picture and look at ourself and ask, “What am I doing? What is my priority?” And if we could realize my cell phone, Facebook, all those things shouldn’t be the priority.

That will be Satan’s tool. And my one thing as a Christian grandmother, is that I would say put the phone down at meal time. Give them the undivided attention they need. They want it from you. Parents and grandparents matter to them.

And my one thing as a Christian grandmother, is that I would say put the phone down at meal time. Give them the undivided attention they need. They want it from you. Parents and grandparents matter to them.

They know who gives them attention and who is glazed over. Because its the same thing when your married. If you don’t sit and talk or relax together, you won’t know that person. You won’t know your siblings or your mother or your child — their fears, what they know about God, what they think about God.That would be one of the things I would encourage all of us, myself included, to be intentional and give attention.

David Barrett