Every Monday afternoon, I pick my three teenagers up from school and we do the same thing: hit our favorite fast food place. It doesn’t matter what we have going on, we slip it into the schedule. As soon as they pile in the car, they always ask if we are going to go. And I always say yes.
My youngest always gets fries and an ice cream (he likes to dip his fries in the vanilla soft serve), my oldest gets the biggest burger he can, and my daughter is a sucker for a large, frothy root beer.
I run in and order while my kids wait in the car and catch up on social media. The first thing I do when I get our brown paper bag full of sweet and salty deliciousness is reach into the bag, grab three fries and shove them in my mouth all at once.
French fries taste better on a Monday afternoon if you ask me.
Our weekly fast food trip is a small thing we’ve been doing for years now. The time it takes us to sit in the car and eat is short but it’s meaningful. I get a solid ten minutes with my kids to talk about their day, upcoming events, and memories—like the time when we went to McDonald’s after roller skating and they got Happy Meals for the first time.
I have taken my kids on trips to Vermont to visit friends. We’ve gone to an epic indoor water park. They have been to New York City to see the Rockettes and all the Christmas lights. We’ve also had many epic fails on evenings when I’ve taken them out to dinner and a movie, but something went wrong—too much complaining, someone not feeling well, or a friend who couldn’t come with us at the last minute.
Our Family Rituals: The Little Things
These adventures have had meaning in their lives, of course, but I’ve found it’s the small traditions—the things which don’t require a lot of time, money, or effort (on my part or theirs), that we enjoy the most.
When my kids were younger, I tried to go over the top with everything. I thought if I wasn’t practically dead after a family vacation, or a day out, I wasn’t doing it right. I put so much effort into an event or trip, I didn’t have a lot left over to enjoy the experience with them.
Days and weeks like this would always end in tears (theirs and mine), because the buildup would be so huge, and I would be so exhausted, that there was no way any it could live up to the expectations I had set.
I have found over the years it’s the low key moments they can count on that mean the most. The little things I plan to get us through the week—but don’t give me a headache or bleed my bank account—hold the most meaning.
Benefits of Family Traditions
As my kids get older, they are taking on more adult tasks. They have more homework, they have jobs and cars to maintain. We all look forward to these little nuggets we throw into the week as a way to us through all of the adulting we have to do.
Growing up, we always had pizza on Saturday nights. After showering, we would all gather in the living room in our pajamas and watch Star Search. It is by far the best memory I have of my entire childhood. It trumps Christmas morning, vacations, and even the week-long trip we took to Disneyland.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was all my parents could manage. They would have loved to take us out for a meal every weekend, or order out, but they couldn’t afford it and still provide other things for us.
They could, however, afford yeast, flour, and the rest of the ingredients to feed their four kids at home. And letting us watch television and drink soda one night a week was huge for me and my sisters.
Thinking about my younger years is proof we all love the simple traditions, the ones we can count on that take only a few minutes yet can be repeated each week. Regardless of our age, we all like to have a little something to look forward to—especially on a Monday. And, honestly, I love getting a little grease in my diet and quality time with my kids at the beginning of each week.