Once upon a time I read a suggestion for creating conversation with our kids. We implemented it and there are times when we are more faithful (other times less) in maintaining it, but I am always happy when we do.
The basic principle is that once a day we ask our family members what their "thumbs up" (positive) and "thumbs down" (negative) experiences were for the day. In our family, we try to do this around the dinner table.
It had been awhile, but yesterday after a frenzy of cleaning and pre-packing for our upcoming trip to Santiago we took the kiddos out for a quick dinner at our favorite Peruvian restaurant. (For the record and having absolutely nothing to do with our conversation, meal choices included rotisserie chicken and fries, salchipapas hot dog and fries, and pollo saltado sauteed chicken and fries. Oh so not healthy yet good.)
Overall, every child's thumbs up was the same: "Thumbs up, we're going to Santiago!" They are very excited to see their cousins and even wanted to know if they could go to school with them again. (Need I point out this is the only time school attendance inspires such excitement?) Though Owen did puzzle us with another thumbs up. He said, "Thumbs up because I got a 4,3 on a test." Since anything below 4 is considered failing and this was cutting it pretty close, we wondered why this was cause for celebration until he added brightly, "Because usually I get, like, a 3,8 in that class!"
The thumbs down, however, varied from person to person. Isabel's thumbs down was that someone in her class keeps saying she likes a 7th-grade boy ("And that is NOT true! I don't!") Eva's was an unfortunate pimple that is plaguing her face and creating teasing from some unkind classmates, as well as her everyday complaint from this entire year ("My classmates are so LOUD!") Owen's thumbs down got lost in translation, as he attempted to discuss so many different things that we lost track. Alec said, "My thumbs down is that I have a cold!" as he made a puppy dog face and sniffed pitifully. Ian typically tried to break into the conversation at various points so that I can't exactly remember if/what his thumbs down might have been. I do know that we added a thumbs up to affirm his having received a "Muy bien!" declaration of classroom behavior by his teacher, after several days of struggle.
As I looked around the table and squeezed my two little boys who were trying to snuggle in for warmth on either side of me, my heart was overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude for this simple moment as a family. Nothing fancy, nothing special, but full of togetherness.
And that is the best "thumbs up" for me.