Rose, Thorn, Bud

By: Sonja Van Hala, MD, MPH, FAAFP
Dedicated to Garon Coriz, MD, UUFMRP Class of 2016, who touched us with his bright smile and big heart.

“Rose, thorn, bud!” my daughter exclaimed as we were a few bites into our meal.
“I want to go first!” my son declared.

We know that eating together is good for families and building relationships with each other. Yet, at the end of a long day, my family is tired, and not much in the mood to answer the worn-out question: “How was your day?” “Fine.” “Good.”

I was reconnecting with an old friend over, you guessed it – food, and she shared how her family’s dinner is a special time together, using the construct of the rose, thorn, and bud. I loved this idea in its image, simplicity and design. I planted the ritual with my family over dinner and it took hold.

Why do I like it so much?
It creates space for each person to share: no one is left out or overrun. It creates a window into the lives of the people I love, and a chance to hear what matters to them. And it surprises me.

My son: “My rose is that I got to ride with grandma and grandpa in the car and I learned how to blow a bubble.”
My daughter: “You got gum?”
My son nods, “My thorn is that grandma and grandpa are leaving, and my bud is that I hope I can have a playdate with my friend this week.” He calls on his sister to go next.
I make a mental note to follow-up on the playdate; it matters a lot to him.

My daughter: “My rose is that we played Frisbee in the park. My thorn is that my legs hurt. My bud is I hope I get gum from grandma.”
Her bud is gum? That’s a good thing to know.
And so it goes…

And though children make this activity easy to do, rose-thorn-bud works with adults too. I find the act of reflecting on each day, and choosing my moments to share, as clarifying and grounding.
The rose is something good
The thorn is something bad
The bud is something you look forward to or hope for.

Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote:
The little things? The little moments?
They aren’t little.

Sonja Van Hala, MD, MPH, FAAFP, is a Professor (Clinical) in Family Medicine in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT. She currently practices at the Sugar House Health Center.

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