As a speech language pathologist, I have a passion for facilitating communication in my home—even more so because we have a child with a language delay and hearing loss. But at times, if the stress of the day overwhelms me, I retrace my own parents’ after-school pickup line and hear myself ask, “How was school today?” Cue silence from three rows of seating. Then, I shift to asking, “Who made you smile today?” but I’m still left wanting more information with less distractions like the horrors of 281 northbound traffic during rush hour. While the drive home from school/cook dinner/do homework/get the wiggles out/witching hour varies daily, we try our best to carve out a few minutes within our evening meal to all sit together and share. For over a year now, it simply looks like this: each person in our family selects the “thorn” in their day as well as the “rose.”
This tradition to share our highs and lows has strengthened our relationships with each other. First, there is an embedded act of listening when each child waits his/her turn to share. They are learning how to show compassion and empathy for each other. Secondly, they are building problem solving skills. We wait to hear if our family member wants to hear possible solutions if their thorn is about conflict with a friend, for example. When I ask my children what they like best about our “thorn and rose” routine, they say they enjoy telling us about their day and feeling heard. The kitchen table has become a safe place, and we have very few rules to guide our thorn and rose conversations.
As parents, my husband and I have made a conscious decision to avoid thorns regarding our children’s behavior. Of course, when my toddler takes off his diaper for the fifth time and spreads the goods all over my floor, it’s a HUGE thorn—one I cleaned for an hour. But it was dealt with in that moment and I don’t want to rehash it. A thorn communicates to my children that my husband and I have feelings too. When we mention a thorn, if possible, we add how we navigated that disappointment, sadness, or frustration. For example, my thorn last night was nearly getting hit by someone who ran a red light, so I said, “Today my thorn was when a car didn’t follow traffic laws and I got so angry at that car! I noticed how angry I was getting, so I took three deep breaths, which made me feel better.”
Just like taking three deep breaths, our thorn and rose conversations make me feel better too. It is our family tradition, one that the children encourage their friends and cousins to participate in when they visit. The kids always remind others that everyone has a thorn in a day and that’s OK, because you also get a rose. I want to keep this healthy outlook on life. While the children take turns talking about their day, the rest of us are learning to be active listeners, and that validates each of our feelings as much as it provides plenty of perspective.