Every night before bed, our family of five gathers in our middle child's bedroom. It's dark except for the hallway light that shines in from the open doorway. We pile in somewhere in the darkened room. Maybe on our youngest's mattress that lies on the floor (and will continue to live there until our 4 year old decides his own bedroom is not haunted by The Arm). Maybe on our other son's bed. Maybe sitting on the desk chair. We settle in and start our bedtime ritual.
It's our family bedtime prayer. We start by each saying what we are thankful for that day. I'm often struck by what my children are thankful for: having a house, food, their school, our family, mom and dad. Our daughter, the oldest at 10, sets the example for her two younger brothers by being reflective and thoughtful. (That girl's natural gratitude for everything in her life is a point of immense joy for me and that perhaps somehow, during our many missteps parenting, we did something right.) I enjoy hearing what my husband is thankful for - another window into his day. And I find it therapeutic to think slowly through my day and select what stood out for me. I find that I am thankful for many things and that this reinforces my generally positive outlook on life.
Next, we each say something we are sorry for, or want to do better with next time. We emphasize that there is always something we can do better. The children's responses often involve times that day when they were annoyed or angry with the other. Never any judgment, just sharing.
Then we share one thing we are proud of doing that day. Maybe it's doing their best on a test. Or being a good friend. A piece of art. Another great insight into my husband's day for post-kids' bedtime follow-up. I love hearing what everyone is proud of.
Finally, we name who we each want to pray for. For a long time, our 4 year-old said "Santa Claus" every night and now that has seasonally transitioned to The Pope (formerly pronounced "The Hope") and Wilson, our deceased cat. Our middle child, 7, tends to pray for large swaths of people - the homeless, people with cancer. We finish with a prayer that we say together.
I don't know how long this family ritual will hold together. For now it works for us all. I didn't grow up saying prayers or consciously thinking about what I am thankful for. I hope supporting this daily habit gives them as much meaning as it has given us.