Over the past few years, we’ve tried to create rituals for our family. We’ve started watching half* of a movie together on Friday evenings (first up: Shrek! Then God Help the Girl because Toby’s obsessed with Belle & Sebastian. Now I can’t wait for Peter Pan). While Anton naps on Saturdays, Alex and Toby get tacos at a Mexican place down the block. And we go to a neighborhood community center on Sunday mornings to eat bagels and play in their gym.

So, we’re doing all right! But family dinners are still all over the place. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve typically fed the boys early (around 6pm) and then waited to have a grown-up dinner after they’re asleep (around 8 or 9pm). We sit with them while they eat, but the other day, Toby said, “Mama, you guys have to eat! You have to eat, too!” And I realized that our eating at the same time also mattered to him. It wasn’t enough to talk and laugh about our days, we also had to be chewing and digesting. :)

So when I saw this dinner post—by Shauna of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef—I sat up straight and listened. She talked about how their Friday pizza nights changed everything…

We made Fridays pizza night…Then we all took our plates to the living room and watched a movie together, eating pizza. It was lovely. It still is.

And then a funny thing happened. That ritual of pizza together every Friday night started, slowly, changing everything. We had a taco bar one Thursday and Lucy asked if we could have tacos the next Thursday. So we did. And Thursdays became taco Thursdays. After a few visits to a conveyor belt sushi place in Seattle, Lucy desperately wanted sushi every week, so we started making our own sushi (minus the raw fish for her) on Sundays. After Desmond arrived, and our lives were happily disrupted, we needed ritual and routine more than ever. So we chose a meal for every day of the week. And we’ve been doing that ever since.

Mondays are meat and potato night. Tuesdays are kid choice night (right now, Lu’s favorite choice is gluten-free corn dogs. so she is a kid after all). Wednesdays are soup and salad nights. Thursdays are tacos. Fridays are pizza night. Saturdays are pasta night. Sundays are sushi night.

To our surprise, we love this. We don’t have to think about what to make for dinner, in a panic at 5pm every night…

The one ritual of pizza night turned into a series of rituals that changed our lives. The kitchen is clean these days. The refrigerator is better organized. And mealtimes are a series of songs and happy chattering and sharing of gratitude instead of us cajoling Lucy to please eat more of her meal. Desmond claps his hands in his high chair when we all sit down because he knows something fun is about to begin.

Isn’t that brilliant? It’s like hearing the answer to a riddle—it’s so obvious that you can’t believe you hadn’t already thought of it. A certain meal every day of the week: I’m looking forward to trying it out. Would you do it? What do you make for family dinners now? Any tips or recommendations?

P.S. How to get your kids to talk at dinner, and why French kids eat everything.

* We watch the other half the next morning, or Saturday or Sunday evening. A full movie has proven to be too much for their little attention spans, ha! :)

(Shauna post via The Wednesday Chef)