6 of Our Family Rituals
by Renee Brown
Every family has them—family rituals that add spice to everyday life. And many of us have added some quirky rituals to the mix that make our tribe unique and wonderful. Our family rituals add a whole lot of sunshine into the average day and have created some of our strongest memories. Here are some of our favorites:
1. First day of school pictures. Many families do this—the kids on the front step in new clothes. My friend Susan gave me the idea to put a spin on this. The night before the first day of school, my boys created a sign with their name, the new grade, and the year. They loved this for many years and wow, did they get creative. Once they became teenagers, talking them into making the signs took some serious negotiating, but we made it through and now I have a photo book of every first day. They are one of those things I’d grab in a fire.
2. Last day of school celebration. On the other end of the year, we were all so excited for the change-up in routine (no more monitoring homework for me—woot!), that it seemed right to celebrate. We did different things; sometimes an ice cream cake, sometimes out for pizza—but the general plan was to celebrate the close of one year and welcome our favorite season with open arms.
3. Minor Holidays. We would have special celebrations on the not-so-huge holidays, such as Arbor Day (picnic under our favorite tree) and Memorial Day (visit a cemetery and talk about family and friends who have passed away).
4. Letters to my boys. My two sons don’t know this yet, but every year on their birthday, I write them a letter. I describe their life at the time, including their likes and dislikes, their friends, and activities. I try to be as specific as possible, so when they receive the letters, they will get a true sense of who they were. I seal each envelope and label the front with the year and age of the boy. Now that my kids are 18 and 20, it’s getting to be time to think about how to present the bundle of letters to them. I think they will be pretty wowed by the gesture.
5. Mealtime. I wanted to be sure that my two boys learned the value of being a decent conversationalist and mealtime was the perfect setting. We would review our days, including one good thing and one not so good thing that happened to you today. This allowed each of us to peek into one another’s daily lives and helped them to cope and celebrate life’s moments.
6. Bedtime. Let me tell you, at the time this family ritual was so tricky, but looking back, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. As a single parent, one-on-one time was darn near impossible to coordinate with two kids, but I could give them a piece of me in the evening. Post bath and reading out loud, I would hang with each boy in their room for about 15 minutes. Lights out, on the bed, just the two of us. Sometimes we would talk, other times I would tickle their backs, or we would listen to music. One of my more brilliant moves was to teach them how to rub my tired shoulders. Many times as I lay there with my child, the exhaustion of the day overtook me and it was a fighting battle to get up and continue with my nightly routine, but looking back it was so worth it.
Celebrating family rituals—think about how you could incorporate some special new tradition into daily life. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be a big thing at all. Get creative and get going, because soon your kids will be out in the world on their own—hopefully filled with amazing family memories.
Renee Brown lives in Minneapolis with her two tall sons—Sam, 20, and Zachary, 18—and three obstinate felines. She is a senior account executive working in advertising and an avid reader, wine drinker, creative writer, and yoga enthusiast.