I’ve been reading through parenting advice recently, and I’ve come across something important. Something I hadn’t even realised was important. Apparently, as a parent, one of the most important things I can do for my family is to establish positive, meaningful family traditions. This will enrich the life of my children and ensure they have a solid grasp of who they are and where they belong.
It’s time to get me some family traditions!
But where do I start? I’d like to draw on the family traditions we had when I was a child, but sadly we didn’t have any.
(I’m beginning to feel un-enriched already.)
But maybe I’m missing something. Let me think back to my childhood days…
Christmas was always special. The three of us kids would wake up early (really, really early) and quietly go through the goodies in our Christmas stocking. Then, at 6:00am, we’d bound into our parents’ room, wake them up, and exhort them to hurry, hurry, hurry, get up, get out of bed, and come out to the tree, and see the presents, and let’s get started! We’d sit around in our pyjamas, eating chocolate and lollies from our stockings, and open the presents. Dad would sit by the tree and hand them out one at a time, all of us sitting and watching and waiting to coo over whatever gift was unwrapped. We’d draw the process out as long as we possibly could. (Seriously — if there was a gift that required batteries, the batteries would be wrapped separately. That’s TWO gifts instead of ONE.) When the presents were finally all opened, Dad would go into the kitchen and cook bacon and eggs for breakfast. We’d eat at the table, then go off and play with our presents while Mum and/or Dad prepared lunch.
We did this every year, but it wasn’t a tradition. It was just Christmas.
Birthdays were always a big deal. You got presents, and a cake, and your siblings had to be nice to you all day. And (and!) you got the ultimate treat of the year. The Birthday Boy or Girl got to choose what we had for dinner! It could be anything. Pizza? Sure. A three course roast meal? Absolutely. Ice cream with sprinkles? No problem. We would agonise over this decision for weeks before our birthday as though we were choosing our Last Meal. And, the funny part? Mum would often ask us what we wanted for dinner at other times of the year, but it wasn’t the same. It just wasn’t.
Choosing birthday dinners was a big deal, but it wasn’t a tradition. It was just something we did on our birthdays.
I have memories of sitting down in front of the TV to watch Young Talent Time (for the US readers: think Mickey Mouse Club) with my parents every Saturday evening at 6:30pm. When that show stopped broadcasting, we moved on to watching Hey, Hey It’s Saturday at the same time. Every week we’d all stop and watch TV together and enjoy the family-friendly programming. It was a special treat — something to look forward to.
But it wasn’t a tradition. It was just Saturday night.
Every night, us kids would set the table and all five of us would sit down for dinner as a family. There would be a fresh pot of tea on the table, which we would pour for ourselves (using a strainer to catch the tea leaves). We would eat dinner and dessert, talking about the things we did that day and the plans we had for the next day. We told jokes and argued and debated and shared. And when dinner was done, one of us would help with the dishes while the others went to do our homework.
This is one of the strongest memories I have of my childhood, but it wasn’t a tradition. It was just dinner.
… As you can see, there’s not a single family traditions to be found.
We may have done things together, but I don’t believe for a moment that my parents ever sat down and discussed ways they could establish positive, meaningful family traditions.
You know what, Parenting Expert? I say “No” to establishing positive, meaningful family traditions.
I don’t have time for that nonsense.
I have to go ask the kids to set the table for dinner and spend a few minutes reflecting on my day so I have something interesting to talk to them about. Then I need to think about which movie we’re going to rent on Saturday for Movie Night. Plus, I’ve only got 10 weeks until my birthday and I have no idea what I want for my birthday dinner.
Honestly, we don’t have time to establish positive, meaningful family traditions. We’re too busy being a family.