Inspired by others who have similar traditions, we have started having a Back to School dinner the first night of the new school year. It helps to get the kids excited about school and to give the family some time to talk about each child and what they have to look forward to. This year we added a theme for the school year, something we want to focus on as a family throughout the coming year. Our theme for this year is: "Be a Builder".
We took some time to explain to the kids what this means. We built a little tower of blocks and talked about all the things we could do to help "Be a Builder". How it takes time and effort to build something great. How we want to be people who build things, not tear things down. We talked about how to help build others, both at home and at school. How we need each person's help to build our family. And most importantly, how to build their brains (did anyone else read Nurture Shock? There is a great chapter about teaching kids that their brains are a muscle that needs to be worked... not that some kids are just born smart).
I printed out "Be a Builder" signs and placed them on each plate, and asked each person to put their sign somewhere in their room to help them remember our theme. The kids have it on their bulletin boards, I have mine on my bathroom mirror. I also printed a big version for the door to the garage, so the kids see it as they walk out the door. To be honest, I think it is helping me the most. It can be hard to Be a Builder, to remember to build my children up (rather than focus on all their little mistakes)... but I am trying.
We had pulled pork sandwiches for dinner with some homemade coleslaw, and corn on the cob and watermelon. The most exciting part of dinner for the kids was the shrimp cocktail, which won a lot of points for presentation (i.e. hanging them on the side of a glass bowl). My 7 year old said "I've seen this before... like in movies, but I never knew we could do it in real life!!". I followed Ina's recipe for Roasted Shrimp Cocktail, and though the cocktail sauce was a little spicy for the kids, the shrimp were a big part of making it feel like a "special" dinner. Instead of boiling the shrimp (or buying it pre-cooked at the store), you roast the shrimp with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.. simple and delicious and sure to grace our table again sometime in the near future.