Thanks-giving Every Day
Gratitude and contentment are long-term life skills you can help build each day
At Thanksgiving, my family, like many American families, gathers around the table for a bountiful meal like the ones seen on the Food Network, and we give thanks for our blessings. Yet, as a single mother of two sons, I have attempted to make every day a “thanks-giving” day. At night before bed when they were young, we chose to acknowledge a few things we were most grateful for that happened that day. These items included simple things like sunshine, a special play date, a school event, or our health and safe passage through the day. Other days we said thank you for frivolous and fun treats like ice cream, winning at Skee ball, or a new toy.
By being appreciative each day, we learned to focus on the good in our day—and in our lives. This practice has helped each member of our family remain positive and not fixate on what we did not have. Of course, there were times of upset and disappointment, which we talked about. Overall, I tried to steer the conversation away from the negative with gratitude. Still, some days were harder. We talked about perseverance and a good night sleep to help get us through a troubling time.
This ritual became a way for us to find contentment in a world today that is often filled with violence, negativity and the promotion of objects and social media images, a world that continually tempts children (and parents) to buy things. Materialism at its worse can become a void inside of us that can never be filled. Through the years, my hope has been to transform the tempting “I want” mantra into “thank you, thank you, thank you.” By giving daily thanks and focusing on value and functionality over flashy marketing, we have become calmer people who revel in the joy of simple things: an autumn day, a jump in the leaves, a walk by the ocean, a hike in the woods or a big burger and a cold drink on a summer day.
Another routine in our home has been family dinner. Although not all days are a holiday, like Thanksgiving, and not all the members of the extended family can be present, coming together around the table for a nightly meal is still an important—although sometimes challenging—part of chaotic family life. It takes some organization and commitment from the parents, and practice and patience from all involved for a successful nightly meal tradition. Yet it is worth the effort.
According to the Family Dinner Project, regular family dinners can be the bond that helps keep a family strong and ward off problems, such as a breakdown in communication and poor nutrition, as well as help lower rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders. It also can yield higher rates of resilience and self-esteem.
For our family a three, dinner has been a time for good—not fancy—food and conversation like catching up on what went right and wrong during the day. It is an opportunity for the kids to vent a bit about a teacher or recap a classroom experience, or it’s a time for us to give our perspectives on a new show, book, movie, or game. With busy schedules, I have made it a priority for us to sit down most nights for a quick meal, even if we are having breakfast for dinner or pizza on paper plates—not your average Food Network fare.
Then again, our strong network is based on gratitude, stability and love, not food. And for that, I am truly thankful.
Lisa B. Samalonis writes from New Jersey. She is at work on Just Three, a memoir of single parenting her sons.