Turnaround at the Table: Adrian's Story

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 Adrian Mewshaw, father, husband, and Prince George County Police Officer, as he speaks about turning around his upbringing and modeling something better for his family through the family table.

Thanks for talking today. What was your experience growing up with family meals?

Family meals were basically mandatory when I was a child. It didn't matter if we were in the middle of playing hockey or football, we were expected to be at the table for dinner. And it was stressed very hard by my father that Mom worked very hard to make the meal. We had to sit down, eat our whole plate before we got up, complement, don't complain.

But also, family meals were the first time that we saw our dad during the day. Dad worked. So for me, family meals were quite often a bad time because whatever I had done that day at school or whatever my mother felt the need to report to my father, the table was where swift justice from the day would be implemented.

Was that a common theme at your family’s table?

That was a common thing for me! Yes, basically we would all sit down and when my dad would start eating he would ask the question, “How was everyone’s day?” And that is when my mom would usually complement how my sister had done and how Adrian got a detention and that is when I would then receive my double jeopardy punishment at home for whatever had occurred that day at school. Family meals were something that for me, personally, were avoided. I did not enjoy family meals. I did not look forward to it. My father came home at the same time every day. I knew the sound of his door shutting, I knew what was coming. So it was not something I really looked forward to. Basically it was like, “Now your dad is home, now your in trouble. Let's eat.”

"Family meals were something that for me, personally, were avoided. I did not enjoy family meals....Basically it was like, Now your dad is home, now your in trouble. Let's eat.'"

Was that just how your family functioned?

It was definitely how our family functioned. We all had to report to the meal on time. Every day it was mandatory for us to come together for that meal time and then there were these side things that happened with dinner that obviously I did not love. And I guess I kind of associated my family dinner with that because that is so often what happened.

Do you look back with fondness on your family meals or is there more of a disappointmet?

I think disappointment. I’m happy we came together so we at least had that time, but it usually wound up in the end being a negative time. I think it was a negative experience in the end. And I think as a kid, when you have your hopes up a little and it winds up being basically the same dinner you had the night before and the night before that, you wind up disappointed.

As a dad yourself, have you tried to takes steps to make family meals a different experience for you kids?

Yes. So when we come together the one thing we do every single meal, the one thing we do is that we pray. Actually since the beginning of the It Starts at Home Series, we’ve really tried to add a Bible Study to a meal. It’s hard working shift work to keep that going!

Actually, the times where it almost slips my mind I go for the Bible Study book are usually the better ones. They are usually the better discussions. It’s like everyone is getting up to leave the table and “wait a minute we didn’t do it.” So yes, I think there are a lot of things that I do to reverse a certain order I had growing up. I try to make it fun. I try to make it happy. We go around the table and each person says grace -- it starts with Blake then moves over to Caden and to Monica and myself. And that is something that we did not do in my house. So I think it sets the tone for a different meal immediately.

How have you seen that tone of prayer or a devotion or having a genuinely happy disposition on your face affect your two boys?

I think so long as everybody is not too hungry they are happy to see dad happy and they are happy to take part. And the prayers have slowly become more thoughtful. It used to be something they would hum through kind of. I hear them now being very specific -- “Thank you for this situation. Thank you for this that happened today. Thank you for this opportunity that we got to do.”

How have you seen the evolution of their prayer life play out at the dinner table?

I think that the repetition helps with the days that it is difficult to focus. Its still a part of what you do. Just like if you go to the gym or work an exercise program, the day that your just not feeling it, you get in there…at least you got in there. That’s just how much you had that day. You know for the other days, when your mentally and physically ready, those are the days that you grow and I think those other days are the days you maintain.

So your doing quite the turnaround from what was modeled to you to now what your modeling for your family. Have you seen yourself grow through family meals when it comes to your relationship with your family?

Yes I think there’s an approachability. Before, what I was used to was a little more iron fist mentality and that’s how I grew up. I believe, at least I hope, that my children feel as if their father is approachable and that there is an openness and a bond between us that is not easily broken. It’s more personable. We are in a better, more open relationship. I hope they can come to me about anything and I try to reinforce that because I know what’s out there and I see what happens to families that are very distant and families that are affected by crisis who deal with it in different ways.

"Before, what I was used to was a little more iron fist mentality and that's how I grew up. I believe, at least I hope, that my children feel as if their father is approachable and that there is an openness and a bond between us that is not easily broken."

You see things that most of us will never see because you are really on the front lines. As a police officer and as a father, if you could give advice to younger men who have a family or one day will have a family, what would you say?

I got this bit of advice from a Weems Creek member a while back actually. I was feeling very frustrated; things weren’t going very well and I didn’t know what to do. I was really struggling spiritually and emotionally at the time and this gentleman said, “Well you know you are the spiritual leader of your family and you need to lead them.” (And, in our family, Monica by far has the biblical knowledge.) I said, “The only thing is that Monica has so much more knowledge than I do and I just wonder how that dynamic is because she goes to more in depth Bible studies and stuff.” And the gentleman said, “Your still the spiritual leader. What difference does that make? You could be married to someone who has a masters in Bible Studies, but that doesn’t matter. You are still the spiritual leader.”

And I really encourage my coworkers and folks around to really grasp that role as much as you can because it is so vital. I know its uncomfortable sometimes. A lot of folks struggle with this and they don’t want to take the reins, but its vital that you do no matter what. I mean, its quite intimidating to be Monica's husband sometimes with her vast knowledge of the Bible. I ask God to speak through me and for Him to connect to my family. It’s really about them and God. Not me. So I ask for that connection, that window, and it so often comes from a point I didn’t even know was there. That idea coming to me in the moment is from the Holy Spirit and God reminding me that He is connecting with them. It doesn’t matter what your experience or where you came from; it matters who your leading now. And I would add that it's hard for me too. Every time I lead I don't really want to. I want the more experienced, more qualified person there to be the go to. I make myself do it. It's like to say you have courage means that you have to admit you are scared. I am scared but I know what God wants me to do so I do it despite my fear.

David Barrett