“[Our family dinner ritual] has been an evolution that at times was spontaneous and at others intentional. It started when the boys were in early elementary school on a night when everyone was going every which way and we needed to settle down for dinner. On the spur of the moment, I asked everyone to hold hands, take a deep breath and just say “thank you.” John [our son] liked it and we did it the next night and the next night. In our family, if we do something three times in a row, it becomes a tradition. A few years later, I heard Forrest Church’s mantra – ‘Want what you have, do what you can, be who you are.’ I posted it on our kitchen wall above the table. We added it to our nightly thank you. This small act – ‘Want what you have, do what you can, be who you are… Thank you’ – helps set the tone for dinner. The mantra gives us perspective on any problems we encountered that day and helps us prioritize our actions for the next day. It gives us a break from our individual days and allows us to eat and talk together as a family. Dinner may only last 15 minutes, but it has become an anchor to our day where we can all talk about what happened and catch up with each other.
“A year and a half ago, when I was teaching the 6th grade ‘Riddles and Mysteries’ class, I added the children’s version of [the UU] Seven Principles [to our dinner ritual], but only on Sunday nights. Like many of us, my family has trouble remembering all of the UU principles. I wanted to bring home some of what my boys were learning in RE and incorporate it into our family life. I chose the children’s version of our principles, because it is shorter, more direct and easier to understand. The UUA bookstore has a great poster available, which I ordered and posted on our kitchen wall next to our daily mantra. As a result, Chris [my husband] and I have found that saying the principles once a week adds another anchor to our lives. It gives us a weekly pause.
“I would like to say that we have a family dinner every night. We don’t; schedules do interfere. However, we try to have them as much as possible and usually average around five a week. One of the surprises of these rituals has been the acceptance of them by everyone in the family. It isn’t just ‘mom’s thing’ that we have to do before we can eat. I think we all need a little ritual in our lives to help mark the day and the week.
“So let me close by saying, ‘Want what you have, do what you can, be who you are.’”