on a recent New York Times article about how family lore binds us together, making us feel part of something larger than ourselves, a very important element in children's resilience, confidence and emotional development.
I have for several years been trying to create traditions in our little family. I have learned two lessons on achieving this:
1) Be your real self. Sometimes we try to get ourselves to enjoy things that really don't come naturally to us. We might wish we loved museums more than the movies, for ex, or whatever. There are a lot of traditions I would love to instill in my family that we probably are just not ready for right now. The best traditions stick when they come easily and naturally. Therefore, I give you the Cannon Family Traditions as of 2013:
a) Saturday Boys' Breakfast: Brigham began this before Porter was born to allow me to sleep in on the weekend. Every Saturday morning he packs up all the kids and takes them to McDonalds. They love it. I am sometimes invited. I am not sure how Claire will reconfigure this (maybe it will turn into Kids Breakfast), but we have about a year before that gets sorted.
b) Friday Night Movie Night: For years now I order or bake a Pizza, which the kids eat while they watch a movie. This was an easy way to make Fridays special, and we never miss. We have been able to incorporate nice family time with my dad on Friday nights now, too.
c) Big Family Beach Trip to Topsail Island: rent a house with my parents and all my sisters and kids. Walks on the beach with glow sticks, trips to the pier to spot sharks, the 50s style diner. It has its own traditions, too. It is time to start up playing cards, now that many of them are old enough to learn Hearts.
d) Songs and Rubs: at bedtime, after stories in Andrew's room, we sing from the same basic rotation of songs while we rub their feet, backs or heads. Will sings along. Originally we sang Amazing Grace and As I Have Loved You to Andrew. Right now Will requests hymns in Polish or Spanish--Onward Christian Soldiers, High On A Mountaintop, Armies of Helaman, The Baptism Song--Rainbows, I See My Mother Kneeling. He also likes the Marine Corps Hymn. A couple of years ago he like Octapus' Garden. Porter right now requests a scary story, which he dictates to you--usually about "ghost-es" vampires zombies or werewolves. He has nightmares about "Foxes."
2) Sometimes you have to make an effort. I know this is contradictory to the first rule, in a way, because some things are a pain but are worth it. I suppose it is not entirely contradictory, though, since they ought to still be things that people honestly enjoy and not things that you force yourself to pretend to like.
a) Annual Halloween Party: We have only done this twice and we missed in 2012 because of Will's rehab program, but this is a really fun one even though it is more work that the other two. We set up the moonbounce in the back yard, I prepare cupcakes for kids to decorate in Halloween style, we provide mummified hot-dogs and the kids make invitations. Kids come costumed and we have a fun little Friday afternoon. We will do it again this year for sure.
b) Botanical Gardens Classes for kids: Ever since Andrew was old enough, I have made sure to each year have one kids enrolled in a month-long, weekly-meeting, class at the BG. It is a pain to get to and park, esp with younger siblings in tow, but I am always glad I did it, and especially so now that we have been doing it for years. I feel like it will always be a part of their childhoods. My dad used to come with me, and even came this last spring when I took Porter and Will. He could no longer participate like he used to, but he wrote to me on our last day that he used to come here on his lunch break (he worked right next door in the capitol building) and relax and read. He had never told me that before and it adds another dimension of meaning for me to that place.
c) Christmas in Washington: On the Saturday before Christmas, we spend the entire day enjoying DC holiday festivities, starting with the Childrens Nativity Play at the National Cathedral and including the trains exhibit (Botanical Gardens) and the national Christmas Tree.
d) Mom-Kid Date Night: On Tuesdays, I have started rotating btwn Andrew and Will for a weekly date night. I have only just barely started this (tomorrow will be Will's first) but even though I have to arrange for a babysitter, I think I will always be so glad I did this with the kids. I have found it so hard to give them individual attention, but if I can institutionalize it and formalize it, at least they will *think* they are getting lots of special attention, and I am convinced that what they perceive to be true is way more important to their psyches than what actually is true.
I read a wonderful book about training kids to in chores called The Parenting Breakthrough, written by an LDS woman, which I found extremely inspiring and useful, but at the end she cautions that the most important thing to do is Family Home Evening, and that for all the value of her chore system, if you aren't doing FHE, you ought to simply put your efforts there instead. I think she is right, and while Brigham is simply never home in time to hold it regularly, we have decided to do it on Sundays instead. Not ideal for a few reasons, but better than never.
I want to make sure my kids have a sense of their history and a sense of belonging to a really cool and fun group (our family, both immediate and extended) so that whatever comes their way in the form of social rejection or athletic failure or academic struggles--all of which come to us all, typically--they can feel buoyed up by that sense of belonging, that sense of perspective. The article talks about how this can come also by simply telling stories about ourselves, so that is what we did yesterday, both in our home and then with my more extended family when we went to my parents' house.
I don't have many regrets when it comes to my relationship with my dad. I really don't think you get much better than what we had, and my children, too--they saw him at least 5 times a week, and spent real quality time with him. Many people just get a few visits a year. But I do regret that I didn't get more of his stories. When we shared stories yesterday (prompted by the Friend magazine suggested questions), I wished I could have heard my dad's answers. I know many stories, but there is always something more. And I ought to write them down before they slip away.
I would love to hear other people's traditions to incorporate!