As a child, I rolled my eyes whenever my mother tried to start a new family tradition. One year she decided my brother and I should regularly plan and cook dinner. Every week I opened a can of beef chow mein and on his night, my brother stunk up the house by frying liver and onions. I’m not sure how long the monotony lasted before my mom demoted us back to our original roles as her sous chefs.
Another time she tried to teach us daily French lessons since she and my dad had once lived in France. I remember my obsession and confusion over the fact that every word was designated as either masculine or feminine. I couldn’t let it go. But why does a pencil need to have a gender? I think the French classes ended even more quickly than the cooking experiment. To this day, all I remember is that la montre means watch. (And I had to look up just now whether it was masculine or feminine.)
Ironically, now that I have a child of my own, I feel compelled to start my own traditions. Several months ago, I thought it would be serene if my daughter ended each day by listing some of the things for which she was grateful. At the age of four, the idea of gratitude was a bit difficult, but after following my lead, she started to grasp it. My list included both big picture items like our good health and small moments like dancing together to the ‘80’s Greatest Hits in the living room. Her list seemed to branch out to include me and anything else she could spot from her bed: the lamp, a chair, a scrap of paper, and of course, her toys. Her “thankfuls” could go on and on in what seemed like an attempt to delay bedtime. At some point, after supervising the go potty--brush your teeth--put on pj’s--read a story routine, I stopped asking, “What are you thankful for?” And I regret it; I’d hoped that if she formed the habit of making a mental gratitude journal, then she would be a happier person.
That’s the trick, I think, to creating traditions. You need to believe they will truly enhance your family’s life, you need to cling to them in the face of resistance, and you need to start early—before your kids know how to roll their eyes, if possible.
I realize now that my daughter had a valid point. I should be thankful for everything that surrounds me as I lay in bed at night—the electricity that powers the lights and heat, the dust on the table, the toys that bring my child joy, my husband and my daughter. Because these things combine to make this house my home. Perhaps occasionally following my daughter’s lead should also be a new tradition.
YOUR TURN TO COMMENT: What's your favorite (or least favorite) family tradition?