My boys are too young to be called home by the dinner bell, so we’ve started a new family ritual in honor of that tradition.  At the beginning of dinner I ring the bell to signal it’s time to eat.  Of course, the boys want to ring the bell, too, so the ritual has quickly evolved into a grace.  Each boy rings the bell then tells one or two things he is thankful for.  Aidan is usually thankful for mixers (the concrete kind) and ice cream. Cameron is thankful for excavators and dump trucks. Occasionally, he is also thankful for French fries.  I am thankful that my sons find joy in simple pleasures and that they love coming to the dinner table.

Aidan rings the bell at Grammy's house.

So far this new ritual has not replaced an older ritual I started when the boys were about 14- months-old.  A friend of mine had taken dinner to a young mother of triplets who was sick.  She put the food on the table, lifted the boys into their highchairs, then stood in stunned silence, tears streaming down her cheek, as all three infants took hands and bowed heads with their parents while the mother thanked God for the food and for the wonderful friend who brought it.  The babies were ten-months-old.

Cameron and Papa take turns with the dinner bell.

I knew right then it was time to start my own family grace ritual—one that could be shared comfortably with any guest at our table no matter their age or religious beliefs.  I settled on the simple act of gratitude.  Our family often takes hands before eating; then each person shares something he is thankful for.  We call it “Saying Our Thank You’s,” and it has become an important part of my sons’ lives.  If I mention I am thankful for something during our meal, two sticky hands shoot out to clasp mine followed by two smiles and another chorus of gratitude for construction equipment.

I am truly thankful indeed.

What family dinner rituals help your children feel like they belong?  Please share at The Dinner Bell.