This is a submission in our monthly contest. November’s theme is Gratitude. Enter your own here!
It can be hard to bring a family together, I mean really together, when life is swirling around you. Days are long, schedules are busy, and fights happen.
Some nights, my kids are tearing around like someone hooked an IV of caffeine into their systems or they are fighting with us over every request to set the table or empty their back packs. Other nights, it is my husband and I who are fed up with each other and getting frustrated over little misunderstandings. The house is often a disaster, and the to-do list is never finished. So often, we are busy trying to wrap up one day while simultaneously trying to plan the next.
But every night, at some point, we find ourselves all in the same place, usually over dinner. And whether we find ourselves happy to be at that table, or barely able to look each other in the eye, at some point someone asks the question:
“Well, what was the best part of your day?”
There are two unspoken rules when the question is asked:
1 | Everyone has to answer it
2 | Everyone has to listen to each other’s answers
Somehow, no matter how distracted or frustrated we are, we find the strength to pull ourselves into the moment and answer the question. Whoever is most willing goes first, and slowly we all fall into the rhythm of the ritual.
On good nights, each person’s answer leads to a conversation – to follow up questions, funny stories, or an opportunity to share something we are proud of. Other nights, we might just say our piece and become quiet. Either way, the mood is usually changed for the better.
And here’s the point: for that short time – whether it is three minutes or 30 – we are together in the moment, listening to each other expressing gratitude. We are reminding ourselves that no matter how rough the day, there is always something for which we can be grateful. And quite often, though not always, that something has to do with another family member or an experience we have shared.
It might sound romantic or unrealistic, but we are not a fairy tale family and we do not have any special powers that make this possible. We are a real life, working parent family, with young children, busy schedules, financial challenges and all of the stress that any family like ours might share.
But for two years, we have kept up this nightly ritual, even when we’re dining with friends or family, or sitting at a restaurant. Often, it is our children who remind us to do it.
I honestly believe that this question rescues us, over and over again, from mindlessly sinking into the stress of modern day family-hood. I also believe that we are teaching our children (and they are teaching us) a valuable lesson about how simple it can be to find something to be happy about.
I am grateful for this question, and incredibly grateful for our unspoken family commitment to honoring it every day. In fact, this question is often the best part of my day.
Yes, it can be that simple.