It’s hard to believe we’re already celebrating Thanksgiving! Is it me or does time seem to fly by? The great thing about the Thanksgiving holiday is that the focus is on “gratitude.” The bad thing is that there is so much talk about gratitude that the word becomes overused.
Despite how trendy “gratitude” is right now, the attitude of gratitude should never go out of style. That’s why I want to share with you one tradition you can implement in your family to create a spirit of gratitude beyond the holidays.
MAKE DINNER A FAMILY TRADITION
One of the best decisions we’ve made as a family is to enforce having dinner together almost every evening. We make little exceptions to this ritual, even when it means we eat later than usual because of work or extracurricular activities.
Dinner is the one opportunity for us to be together without interruption—phones are put away, t.v. is off, and toys or homework are not allowed. We go around the table and state our highs and lows of the day. When we talk about our highs, we get to celebrate together; when we talk about our lows, we get to console each other. This is how we stay fully connected in each other’s lives. It also gives us a chance to process difficult moments with our kids. We learn about what’s going on in school and with their friends. We learn what scares them and excites them. And they learn about what interesting things we’re doing at work or what gets us down. It creates a safe space for us to share honestly and vulnerably, and help each other reframe situations and find solutions.
It’s even gotten to the point that when we have something really exciting to share, we save it until dinnertime to make our big announcements. This family tradition creates a spirit of gratitude because it forces us to find the good in the day, but it also reminds us that even on bad days, we have something to look forward to. On those days when everything goes wrong, dinnertime is the “high.”
And then there are days when we play “Carooke.” Have you heard of that game? Probably not, because it was created by my family. It’s a game where they announce a song that I, Caro, love. Then I have to sing the lyrics to that song—like Karaoke. The problem is that I have a condition in which I don’t remember proper lyrics to any song. I hear other lyrics in my head to what is being said. So when I sing my version, my family bellies over as I epically ruin all songs that I love. So, yes, for my children the highlight of dinnertime often involves song-shaming their mother.
I tell you that to show you that not only do we share at dinner, we also laugh with each other. We make fun of each other and kid around. That creates a playful environment that brings our guards down and makes us feel connected.
One day amid conversation over dinner, my oldest son blurted out: “This is my favorite time of the day!”
“Really?” I asked.
“Yes.” He replied. “I love that we’re together and that we play around with each other. I love this time.”
We’ve since stopped rushing dinnertime to meet bedtimes. We enjoy dinner knowing that this time is necessary to create meaningful relationships and bonds with each other. And we also understand that this special time is fleeting. When are kids are grown and out of the house, family dinners will look different and be less frequent. But hopefully, our foundation will be so strong that our bonds will never be broken. Life is full of beautiful cycles. It’s important to enjoy the cycle you’re in right now.
Thanksgiving is a beautiful day partly because families gather around and break bread together. But having dinner together is a tradition that you can extend with your immediate family past the holidays.
A Moment of Clarity
An attitude of gratitude is not only created by giving thanks. It is created by sharing, being mindful, listening and feeling listened to; it’s about creating community and making time for what really matters; it’s about showing love, grace, and kindness, and finding the humor in daily moments. What a gift that you can cultivate this mindset by gathering around the table and enjoying dinner with your loved ones on a daily basis.