Family traditions…

I have always wanted to be a mom. Even as a young child, I dreamed of someday having a family of my own. Part of the fun that I had anticipated was being in charge of the traditions that my family would enjoy and anticipate. I often encouraged newly married couples to start thinking (before their children are even born) about ways to include special celebrations and events that are specific to their own family in their lives. Stop for a minute and think about what an awesome privilege that is – you and your significant other are in total control of when, where, what, why, and how you will celebrate ~ YAHOO!

The word tradition has several definitions, but for the sake of this post, I’ll use “a long established or inherited way of thinking or acting”. Most of us think of holidays when we recall traditions, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In our house, we have “first and last day of school” traditions, “Super Bowl” traditions, and a “creating a new coffee mug with a picture of our children on it each year” tradition. That’s the fun part – it can be anything. Life can get in the way… do this, do that, do the other thing, go to sleep, and do it all over again tomorrow. This is precisely why celebrations are so very important. Who cares if it’s a Hallmark holiday??? Valentine’s Day is a day to remind others that they are special, loved, valuable – and… CHOCOLATE 🍫! The key to creating these traditions is to find a commonality, something that everyone will enjoy, and then run with it. Does your family love being outdoors? How about establishing a yearly family obstacle course that you set up together, and make increasingly difficult each year as your children grow up? Are you all competitive? How about an annual trivia competition or week end board game tournament? Are you all big readers at your house? Try setting a yearly “books read” goal each January to encourage this awesome hobby? Do you absolutely love chocolate? Our family had a chocolate party each February, and every guest brought a delicious chocolate dessert to share. In fact, many of our family traditions include food (😬). Every Fat Tuesday we ate pazkis for breakfast and the children got luchables for lunch ( a special treat for them because we never bought them any other time of the year). A few times each winter, our family had a “carpet picnic” and we threw a blanket on the floor, choose a favorite movie, used paper plates, and ate our dinner together while watching a movie… they have realized as teenagers and “kids” in their 20’s that it’s not as comfortable for the adults. 😬 Our kids also get sugared cereal for their birthdays which is a tradition carried on from my own childhood because we never ate sugared cereal, and for my birthday as a child, I asked for a box of Sugar Smacks! This proves yet again that traditions don’t need to be expensive, extravagant or exhausting. Memories can be made by simply handing a child a box of sugared cereal on their birthday – easy peasy!

As fun as random traditions are, we also absolutely love our family holiday traditions. Our four children are now teenagers and young adults, and they still come home for events and holidays that they loved when they were growing up. Leprechauns still dye our milk green and bring Lucky charms for breakfast on March 17th. And to this day we have a red dinner and heart hunt on Valentine’s Day. I create a scavenger hunt, and they follow clues and search the house for gooodies. The gifts at the end are fun, but not the main focus. I found this out a few days ago when I asked if they just wanted their gifts at dinner and my college age daughter stated that she “came home for a heart hunt!”. We absolutely love driving around together looking at Christmas lights and going to local firework displays together in July. I can’t wait to see which of these traditions our children carry on with their future families. I also adore hearing all about the traditions that my friends and their families carry out in their homes. Anything that builds connection and quality time spent together is fantastic!

My word for 2021 is progress. As my children grow up and schedules and school take top priority, I have learned to adjust. Don’t let your traditions become a bother. Continue doing these activities only if you are all still enjoying them and are fully invested. Let’s be honest, life happens … sometimes we all get the flu in February and the chocolate party has to be postponed or canceled. Sometimes, we are all bullied by a pandemic and 98% of our traditions are suddenly all but “against the law ” .😕 Instead, we compromise… we went to a drive-through light event instead of walking through our gorgeous zoo before Christmas. We ate Thanksgiving dinner just the six of us, concluding the meal with each of us reading a list (written in advance) of 100 things we are grateful for …by the way, this was amazing and a new tradition was created! Don’t make yourself do something because “that’s the way we have always done it”. Give yourself permission to eliminate or revise your traditions. It’s also important to be flexible as your schedules change, children grow, and interests shift. Discuss together what your family would like to continue, and which traditions can stay happily in the past.

I treasure the time spent with my family. Memory making has truly been one of my favorite parts of parenting. In exactly one month. my husband and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. This special day will include pulling out two white pillowcases that the guests from our wedding reception all signed – some with advice, some with jokes, and some with fancy or sloppy signatures that puzzle us every year. I love looking at these pieces of our past, and remembering each person that shared our special day with us. In the end, traditions are essential in creating bonds. Family bonds are crucial for establishing family friendships and loyalty. Having shared traditions makes us feel connected – like we belong – and that we are necessary. They grow us as individuals and simultaneously strengthen our relationships. They aren’t required, but are incredibly useful as they help a family stay connected years after they are living together under one roof. Traditions are a blessing, and the one thing that I will always recommend to a brand new couple as they begin life together. I pray that each of you have at least one family tradition that you cherish. If you don’t, there’s no time like the present to create one!

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