When my son started all-day kindergarten a few years ago, he'd get off the bus and be a bear. He was hangry. You know the combination of hungry and angry. At lunch he'd gobble down just enough to calm his growling tummy and leave the rest in order to be the first one on the soccer field. As the bus pulled up to his stop, that growling belly was demanding food and the cranky kindergartener needed something to calm him down, too.
Then we came up with our after-school ritual of a story and a snack.
I would gather up a couple of books and have a snack ready and waiting for him to dig into. As he ate, I read. Those busy days when I didn't have a snack ready were usually big huge flops. Having it ready to go was key, not just for his attention span but for mine too. Seeing it ready to go got us all in the right frame of mind. The food was there to be eaten and the books were waiting to be read.
The benefit to this after-school ritual was the chance it gave us to regroup. To sit down, to calm down, and to connect. After the books were read, some days he'd rush off outside to play -- but some days he'd stay and fill me in even more about what happened at school. This is when I heard about his day.
I would often be very specific about the books we'd share over the snack, choosing ones with thick messages, or ones that sparked longer conversations that I didn't want to tackle at bedtime. We talked about bullying, about war, about immigration… but we also talked about farts. The important part was that reading was being shared and memories were being made.
After Christmas break, we lost this ritual among after-school activities and sports, but this year I am pledging to do it at least once a week with each of my children. To have their snacks ready, to gather a stack of books for them to choose from, and to connect.
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