The Holy Grail

I would like to share what I learned from Deborah Macnamara’s Keynote at the 11th Annual Vancouver Neufeld Conference 2019

Although I am at this moment very tempted to make an album of my sons cuteness to share on social media. I feel I must share this with you first.

The Secrets of the Table: Returning Joy to the Feeding of Others, was the friday evening Opening address given by Deborah Macnamara PhD at the 11th Annual Vancouver Neufeld Conference. …And I took notes!

Deborah Macnamara wrote the book, Rest Play Grow, Making Sense of Preschoolers, (Or Anyone Who Acts Like One) Based on the relational developmental approach of Gordon Neufeld which is now in 10 languages .

The weekend was filled with many tears of realization, and joy. So much good practical information! Impossible to cover it all in a brief article, I will attempt to encapsulate what she said, in the hopes of helping to illuminate. Earlier that day, a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, gifted me a full reusable tissue holder she’d crafted. I was thankful for it came in quite handy over the weekend.

Ok so what is the big deal about Family meals? Well only our mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing! But why do we need these regular gatherings?

1.It’s not just sitting down at the dinner table.

  • It’s the separation we feel when we don’t.
  • Everything about growing up has to do with healthy attachment to our caretaker.
  • The decline in family meals is noticeable. 1 in 5 people have a diagnosable problem.

Deborah explains the concept of “Surrogate end point” It’s not just having a family meal, but that the family meal is, “a marker that is highly predictive of an outcome but cannot explain why… Well as she says, it intersects us, it stops us. It is the island you can come back to the the sea of life.

2. It’s powerful, because for as she says, take our sense of smell.

  • Smell receptors are our only exposed brain cells! It is an incredible ignition system of us coming together. It goes straight into the limbic system, our place of memory and emotion.
  • She told us of how family knowledge related to better functioning. How family stories connecting to us to our history, leads to intergenerational selfness. And it’s all about the caretaker. It’s not about the table but the caretaker who brings you there.

My own response is that it reminds me in part, of my ukrainian grandmother who we call “Baba”. How she brought us all together. How my own mother facilitated the relationships I developed with my aunties, uncles and grandparents. It’s really about relationship and how it relates to how we feel about ourselves. The love and care that Baba put into her food preparations seemed to always bring us together, and mean so much to us all.

At the other end of the spectrum, it makes me wonder about how badly I wanted to leave the table sometimes, as a kid growing up ! My parents actually made it a priority for us to eat together. I didn’t always realize what a gift it was. As a teenager I went to the extent of getting a pt job to not have to sit through the pressures of the dinner table interactions.

These days I’m facing my preschooler who wants to run from the table. We are going over with him how important it is for us to have this time together as we all grow older together. Its not just about having manners and consideration, it’s about the quality of our very lives.

3. It’s hard to say, “Take care of me?”. Instead we say, “Can you please make your carrot muffins forever? ” Even my 4 year old son says occasionally things like, “ You can make this every day forever!” It’s about seeking and providing, the dependant and the alpha. It’s about birthday “feast days” and how “there’s always enough”

Gordon Neufeld would say, “throw in some wine and you’ll have the perfect meal! I’m sure a lot of us would agree.

So what about when food and relationship come apart ?

  • Health problems related to overconsumption
  • Eating Disorders, related to dominance problems,
  • Alarm based eating problems
  • Counterwill- Battles
  • Digestion problems

What is Pickiness?…… one word- unfamiliarity.

Pickiness seems to be at an all time epidemic high these days. I personally can find myself a little triggered by this. But I know it’s because I was made to feel bad when I was young when I didn’t like something. I recognize breathe and move through it when I can. It seems to make gatherings far more challenging. How about- Pot-luck bring what you can and like to eat!? Let’s help teach each other about ourselves.

4. The table reveals our greatest hunger. To be taken care of, and to be the cartaking answer to another. It’s about our nurturing instinct. When we can’t we’re thwarted!

  • To preserve the relationship togetherness, is for the relationship to survive. Together = To Gather.
  • To do so we must keep away the unnecessary. Protect the place of rest.
  • For example: collect our loved one’s attention with a snack platter to engage the attachment instinct. To bridge the distance with food, recipes, and memories. And matchmake to others with the sharing of food.
  • You can use structure and routine to protect eating together. Use rituals daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally, yearly… If thursday nights are busy, you might just make it 9pm sushi night. However you decide, claim it. Sink your teeth into it, for yourself.

5. Then suddenly we’re at Secret number Five: Whoever a child gives their heart to has the power to protect them with their own. Why? For to nourish, protect and take care of them is to enrich the mind and nourish the heart.

(So we sit and eat cereal on the couch together, or whatever it takes!

And Finally The Holy Grail:

  • Gradale/Gradalis. Latin word for,  “A deep platter used to serve food at medieval banquets.”  
  • The secret to the platter is how it feeds us together!

As Deborah says in closing: Breaking Bread is the Universal language of love. Come over, let me take care of you, let me make you tea.

If it could be so easy…. please know I have a variety of teas in the cupboard. Dear people please do stop in if you can. Our lives could literally depend on it !

Published by

Holly Kirkpatrick Ulrich

Studio Artist, Art Jewellery, Visual Arts

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