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“I’m going to say grace without you!” I remind my 5-year-old as he wanders around the living room. Everyone else is sitting at the table with food in front of them; he hasn’t washed his hands yet.

“I’m washing my hands now!” he declares, running to the bathroom. I listen to the water turn on, run for a suspiciously long period of time and turn off. He barrels back in the room and plops down in his seat.

“Father, thank you for this food, thank you for the hands that have made it and help us love each other more every day a-men!” he blurts, running the words together.

I chuckle and shake my head. With him, grace is never quite the way I expect. Sometimes it’s the “metal” version, half-growly yelled. Sometimes it’s in a high, cartoony voice. And sometimes, it’s as fast as the words can possibly leave his mouth.

But no matter how he delivers it, I still keep asking him to. (Even if it sometimes requires a few reminders.) That’s because I want to remind my kids every single day why they should be grateful for all they have. Heck, I want to remind myself, too.

We’re thankful for our food because we never have to worry about having enough of it. Of course, we struggle with deciding what to make for dinner. But our bank accounts are always full enough that it’s a matter of choice, not resources.

We’re thankful for the people who have helped make our food, because we wouldn’t have it in front of us otherwise. It’s good to show appreciation to my husband for preparing the food, as it’s easy to take the work of fellow family members for granted. As a kid, I certainly took my parents for granted and sometimes still do. We also stop to think about the people who put hard work into growing and processing the food. I want my kids to know their food doesn’t just magically appear on the grocery store shelf. Instead, they know that much of our produce in the spring, summer, and fall comes from a small set of farms via our Community Supported Agriculture share. Informed by the farm’s email newsletter, we talk about how the farmers were digging up potatoes that week or had to deal with the relentless rain. Although we can’t always put specifics to the production, we at least try to discuss the many layers of work that go into our food. Even Rice-a-Roni gets the treatment, as we discuss the folks who helped it transform from a grain into “the San Francisco treat”.

We’re thankful for each other because we eat dinner together nearly every day. My husband and I had a four-year long distance relationship in college. Eating together meant chomping on snacks as we texted over AOL Instant Messenger. During the early years of our marriage, my husband spent three long years cooking in a fine dining restaurant. As he worked nights and weekends, we measured our time together in minutes more than hours. Our marriage was made up of stolen moments on weeknights, late nights at the diner, and lazy Sunday afternoons. But when our older son was born, my husband became a stay-at-home dad. We’ve never had so much family time. Although our time with two young children is harried and chaotic, it’s still together. We never want to forget that fact.

Most of all, we’re thankful that God, our ever-loving parent, created all of this beauty to be grateful for. He supports us, loves us, and helps us love one another. Without that love binding us together, all of the food and hard work in the world wouldn’t mean anything. There’s no greater gift.

In many ways, those few sentences starting dinnertime sums up so much we want to teach our children. I want our kids to carry those words with them throughout their lives, no matter how they’re spoken.

Shannon Brescher Shea

Shannon Brescher Shea is a mom of two young boys who's just trying to make a difference. Living in the suburbs of Washington D.C., she writes about her adventures learning to be kinder and more sustainable at We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So. You can also join her family in exploring parenting, growing up and this big, beautiful world on Facebook and Twitter. When she's not writing or parenting, you can often find her on her bike, in her garden, or drinking tea with lots of sugar and milk.

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