All growing up, my family said a blessing at the dinner table each night.  “God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food…” it began.  I can recite it in my sleep, and have memories of thousands of dinners holding hands with my parents and sister, saying the words.  But after a while, saying the words became a rote task – one we did as habit, without thinking at all about what we were saying.  Now, when my boys and I eat dinner at my parents’ house, with my parents and my three teenaged sisters, my boys hold hands and stare blankly at the rest of us while we speed through the blessing.

My oldest has some concept of a higher power, but my husband is an athiest, and the idea of saying a blessing to thank a god for our food is foreign at our house.  It’s not that I’ve rejected the idea of a blessing at the beginning of the meal.  Quite the opposite, actually.  I am so accustomed to sitting down at a table and saying the God is great blessing before I can eat that as an adult with my own little family, it doesn’t feel like dinner is really beginning without the ritual.  I want my children to appreciate the food we have on the table, and the wonderful things we have to be thankful for, but I have struggled to find a non-religious blessing to begin the meal with.

So we began using dinner time to talk about the things that went well for us during the day and the things we’re thankful for.  This month, in particular, we have focused on going around the table and each saying something we are thankful for.  The five-year-old is thankful that his daddy lets him play with a flashlight.  The two-year-old is thankful for his spiderman underwear.  And every night since the boys were old enough to talk, we’ve gone around the table and asked each other, “What was the best part of your day?”  They know they won’t be excused from the table until they’ve told theirs and listened – really listened – to everyone else’s, and  it forces them to be present for five minutes every night while they think about the things that have gone well during the day and celebrate our days as well.  Even on the bad days, the ones that seem like they are a dark hole of crappiness, we each have to think of one thing that was good, one thing we are glad happened.

It’s not a prayer, and I still haven’t found that perfect blessing to start our meals with, but at least our dinners include a ritual of gratitude that we actively, cognitively participate in as a family.  It will give my boys something to remember fondly when they’re adults, and that is blessing enough for now.

13 thoughts on “Blessing

  1. Pingback: Blessings | the fish love the sea

  2. Every night at bedtime I ask my daughter, “What was the best part of your day?” I want her to be aware of and thankful for the good in her life. But maybe I’ll try moving it up to dinner. Either way, I agree it’s a blessing to notice and appreciate these things….and to make that a regular part of your day.

    And if you’re looking for a mealtime prayer, you’re welcome to the one my daughter said the other night, “Dear God, we are thankful for the man who invented macaroni and cheese. Amen.”


  3. Love those little rituals! We always sit down for dinner together, and talk about our day. At big family dinners we do the go around the table and say one thing we are thankful for. It’s wonderful, really.


  4. A few years back, at Thanksgiving, our kids who went to a Christian Preschool sang Johnny Appleseed for the grace. Their cousins joined in because they knew the song from their Montessori Preschool. Then all the cousins got in a fight over the ‘real’ words to the song. Was it? Oh, the Lord is good to me…. Or was it Oh, the Earth is good to me…


  5. Reblogged this on Rocky Parenting and commented:

    A year after this post on family mealtime gratitude was written, I still struggle with how to feel like we are really beginning dinner and acknowledging our blessings. We still talk about our favorite things and those we are thankful for, so I suppose that is a blessing in and of itself.


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