People have been writing about how family dinners are Very Important for quite a while. And lots of my friends have family meals every night with their kids. I'm sure we will one day, too.
But for now, our dinners at home go something like this:
Offspring 1: I don't *like* this soup.
Me: You don't have to eat it. You can eat your bread.
Offspring 2: I don't *like* bread.
Offspring 2: [makes gagging noises]
Me: Can you just chew it up? I don't want you to spit it in my hand.
Offspring 1: I'm all done!
Me [after consuming a total of three bites of food]:
Ok, let's wash your hands!
Sigh. Our dinners out are much better; our kids have always enjoyed restaurants in moderation and only rarely have we wished we hadn't gone out to eat. But at home, none of us are quite so patient.
So no family dinners yet; the fellas eat at their little table, usually with several trucks. We often eat with them, but aren't trying to have a proper meal.
Anyway, this isn't really a post about dinner. It's about what we do to connect instead of having family dinner for now. As most of you know, practicing gratitude is really good for kids (and adults), just like family dinners are.
We decided to light the candles after dinner, before bedtime. And we just never stopped. On the second night, we started asking, in the manner of Rabbit's Bedtime, "What was good about your day?" We all go around, each taking turns. The boys sometimes remember to ask each of us or each other and sometimes ask themselves. If they don't remember, then we ask.
And now Candle Time is sacred. I can't imagine a night without it. We offer some bedtime snacks (usually fruit and cheese), and sit around all enjoying each other's company. No one is fighting. No one is doing something else. We're just listening and hanging out.
Here's a list of some things my kids have been grateful for over the last few days:
one time, I picked up this orange digger and digged in the snow.
I played with Dashie.
Daddy took me park.
Mommy, you came and picked me up after nap I was sad at naptime said where's my mommy and then you picked me up after nap.
We went out to dinner! and had burgers!
[in late December] We woke up and the stockings were ALL FULL!
[after a particularly tough day] I don't have anything.
I love hearing what they have to say.
I love the neatness of the transition—we have to make the house relatively dark for the magic to take hold, and we just don't turn up the lights afterward. Everyone knows what comes next.
We blow out the candle and do a little chant, raising one arm with the smoke: Up. Up! UP! WAY UP there!!
And just like that, it's bedtime. And that's its own set of rituals, equally sacred.