As much as it pains me to do it, I have to give my mother-in-law credit. She’s the one who suggested that my wife and I use “Roses and Thorns” to generate discussion around the dinner table. Because of her advice, our dinner conversation is more interesting and engaging.
Now that I’ve thanked my mother-in-law (and you should thank yours too. Go ahead and do it. I’ll wait…), allow me to explain “Roses and Thorns.” The process is simple. Each family member takes turns sharing roses (good things) and thorns (bad things). The only rule is that the roses must outnumber the thorns because we want to focus on the positive events and experiences.
Before we implemented Roses and Thorns, our dinnertime conversations went something like this:
Me: How was your day?
Me: What did you do in school today?
Me: What kind of stuff?
Child: School stuff.
Me: (Bangs head on table)
Child: May I have dessert now?
Roses and Thorns has given me deeper insight into my children’s lives. My daughter, who is nearly a teenager, isn’t very talkative. However, she becomes quite animated when she’s sharing at the table. She always has interesting tales of middle school that make my wife and I laugh or cringe. Because our daughter is at a critical juncture in her life, my wife and I perk up when she tells us about her thorns. Even if we think it’s a minor issue, we realize that everything has the potential to be a disaster in the mind of a middle school girl. Therefore, we listen closely and try to be empathetic.
My 10-year old son has an unbridled enthusiasm for life and rattles of dozens of roses. Sometimes we have to cut him off to give the rest of the family an opportunity to share.
I use my roses to share exciting news such as our vacation plans (we went to Disneyland a couple of years ago) or mundane things such as my completing a blog post I’d been working on for a while. Once I had to use a thorn to discuss the sadness I felt about losing one of my best friends to colon cancer. My sharing led to a deeper discussion on friendship, loss, and mourning. Although things got a bit gloomy, we managed to end on a positive note by figuring which Teen Titan we were (I’m Robin, my wife is Starfire, my daughter is Raven, and the boys are Cyborg and Beast Boy).
Periodically our dinnertime conversations are going so well that we forget about Roses and Thorns. Just as everyone is preparing to leave the table, my 6-year old son stops us in our tracks.
“What about Roses and Thorns?” he asks. Because of his nudging, we sit back down and continue the conversation.
Join the conversation: How do you generate discussion around the dinner table? Share your ideas in the comments section or Tweet me with the hashtag #ShareTheTable.