I had this realization recently that sounds a little basic as I write it out: We have a very limited number of meals during our lives.

The average life expectancy in the US right now is 78 years old so, on average, that works out to about 85,000 meals in your lifetime if you eat three square meals a day.

Sounds like a lot right?

But how many of those meals are truly memorable? By that I mean, how many of those meals do you remember making a connection with someone during or eating something that made your day better?

How many of the meals were just because if you don’t eat, you can’t live?

Dada Wap?

Our two-year-old is in a phase right now where he wants to sit on my lap for pretty much every meal. After a few weeks of this, I was getting a bit perturbed by it. After all, I kind of wanted to enjoy my meal on my own rather than have a kiddo stick his mucky fingers in my pasta.

One night I kind of rolled my eyes as he inevitably asked to sit in my lap (“Dada Wap?!”) and my wife reminded me that I should probably enjoy these moments. Before I know it, he won’t want anything to do with me. And she was absolutely right. I really should treasure the meals he wants to spend with me as I’m sure it won’t always be that way.

So now when he asks “Dada wap?” I always make him try a bite in his chair (just for good measure), but then he can hop over and we eat dinner together.

While I might find it annoying now, I know I’ll treasure it later, but more importantly I think it makes dinner special for him. Most of his other meals during the week are spent either in daycare or hurried in the morning as we rush out the door. If I can make his dinner special with a simple thing like letting him sit in my lap, then I should always say yes to that.

The Dada Wap problem got me thinking about making meals special. Are there small things that we can all do to make meals special? Rather than rush through the day, are their little things that can make us slow down and enjoy the time we have with friends, family, and food?

Five Quick Ways to Make Your Next Meal Special

Here are a few ways that take almost no time or money, but can really help you change up your next meal.

Say No to Electronics

This one is still super tough for me, but I do think I pay more attention to the people and the food when the electronics are off. Some background music is cool, but no TVs and no phones while we are eating. This forces you to pretty much either A) sit in silence and enjoy the food or B) talk to people!

Move Locations

If you always eat at the same place, change it up! Toss a blanket in the backyard and have an impromptu picnic; Set up dinner on your porch; or simply move seats at your dinner table so you are sitting next to a different family member!

Add some Flair

You don’t need to be like this guy:

But a little flare during dinner can make a huge difference. This time of year, I like to add pomegranate seeds to my dinner rotation. You can sprinkle them on all kinds of stuff from salads to meats and they add some nice flair to your plate. Plus, kids love them.

Let Someone Else Pick the Menu

If you’re normally the one in charge of meals, it can get a bit boring. Believe it or not, even I tend to fall into patterns where I’ll make the same thing over and over again. But, even if I’m cooking it, I’ll let Betsy (or even Theo) say what they want for dinner and then make it happen. It kind of builds anticipation because they feel like it’s a special night, even if it’s secretly also a break for me because I don’t have to think of something!

Have One-on-Ones

This can be tough as a family, but sometimes it’s nice to have a meal with just one other person. You really get to have a conversation that way. Occasionally, split up and have special date nights either with your spouse or your kids! It’s a small schedule change, but can be a big breath of fresh air to a routine.

What are Your Tricks?

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks of this stuff. I’d love to hear from you all on things you do to make meals special. What’s your “Dada Wap” Problem? aka the simple thing you could do to make meals special for someone else?

PS. Dada Wap would be a great hiphop name.