6:07 pm, the family dinner table…
I tried to shrink down in my chair at the dinner table until I disappeared underneath. I knew what was coming.
“So, Kelli, what’s the best thing that happened to you today?”
My friend looked at me, eyebrows raised, then back at my dad and shrugged, “I dunno.”
I was literally going to die of embarrassment. Didn’t he know that not all families do this dumb thing?
My dad turned to me, “What about you Jessie? What’s the best thing that happened to you today?”
5:43 pm, the family dinner table…
“I know Mom. The best thing that happened to me today was…”
Every night when I was growing up, all six of us had dinner together. And every night my father would ask each of us a question: What’s the best thing that happened to you today? It was a way of mentally going over our days, picking out the good things that happened, and sharing them with each other. Well, as traditions have a way of working, I now do the same thing with my family. Every night, the three of us sit down together and I ask the question.
My three-year-old doesn’t quite grasp the concept, and his answer is always the same, “I go to Cama’s” (translation: I went to daycare at Carmela’s house) but my five-year-old gets it. He thinks about it, and when he has his Best Thing, he tells us. Sometimes, it’s recess or sitting next to his friend at lunch, sometimes it’s taking the bus home, and sometimes it’s the whole day. Once in a while it hasn’t even happened yet (dessert).
Then I tell them my Best Thing. Sometimes it’s having a conversation with a good friend, hearing a favorite song on the radio, and many times my answer is “right now” being with them.
Here’s the thing. I am a master at picking my battles. I will be the first to admit I’m probably too lax about many things. We throw balls in the house, we don’t bathe every night, we eat too much processed food, we are messy and crazy and loud. But one thing I insist on is eating dinner together and talking about our Best Thing. I’m well aware of the attention span of a five and three-year-old, so it’s never a drawn out, in-depth conversation by any means. But it always happens.
And as they get older, I hope the conversations do become more in-depth, more serious topics of discussion. They will likely be embarrassed when it’s their turn to be the too-cool-ten-year old and I ask their friends the question. But ultimately, it’s about them being able to talk to me, and each other. No matter where we are during the day, what different directions we go, different things we do, at the end of the day we come together and reconnect.