The Importance of Tradition for Families
If you didn’t start singing, just now, I’m not sure we are really friends. I’ve included the clip from Fiddler on the Roof just so you can get the song in your head and we can be buddies forever. (Skip to 1:48)
My oldest child recently came to me and said, “I hate to break it to you, but Nonni said she is not making Taco Soup this year for Halloween.” Inwardly, I shrugged. “So what? That’s fine. We don’t always have Taco Soup* on Halloween.”
Then I listened again with my mom ears. “I hate to break it to you” is code for “this is disappointing”. I may not have been disappointed, but she was.
“That’s ok,” I said. “I was planning to make it.”
See, we have had that soup on more than one Halloween. It’s especially great when the weather is cool or wet. And it’s convenient to keep warm on the stove or crock pot for anyone to eat before, during, or after trick-or-treating.
Our tradition for Halloween is to have my parents, sister, brother, and sister-in-law over to our house. Our small house is not the usual gathering place for holidays, but it became the Halloween Hub by default. We have the only kids in the family so everyone comes to see them in their costumes relishing their candy haul. We eat something convenient (not making a big fuss). We frantically get the kids dressed, because despite my advice, I’m always running late. Then, several of us take the kids out trick-or-treating. My mom passes out candy to our visitors.
When we get home, we dump all the buckets of candy in a pile and sort it by chocolate or fruit-flavored (to preserve the chocolatey flavor). Then we turn on It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown while we dig in to the sweet stuff. Then it’s bedtime, and the guests leave.
It wasn’t ever planned this way. It just happened. And it happened again. And again, until it became our rhythm. We know what to expect every October 31, and I don’t even have to invite them. They just know to come.
Is tradition important to you?
“Traditional” sounds almost derogatory to a generation that questions everything and challenges the status quo. “No,” we think, “traditions are for the past, we want to live in the future.”
Yet, even the most flexible and foward-thinking among us has felt a pang of disappointment when a holiday rolled around and something didn’t happen that you were expecting.
Why is it important to repeat certain things?
Traditions are much more powerful than we realize. They connect us to the past–to our own past and to the past of generations before our time.
The millenial generation is less sentimental than previous ones. We don’t need Grandmother’s crystal to remember Grandmother. We certainly don’t want Aunt Rose’s handsomely carved bedroom suite, and Grandaddy’s rocker is nice, but just doesn’t fit our aesthetic. (We’re a pretentious bunch, aren’t we?)
We may not want their things, but we do need the connection to the past.
So what connects us to the past? Often, it is tradition.
We may turn down Grandmother’s crystal, but her pie (the recipe and the know-how to make it) is invaluable. Not Aunt Rose’s furniture, but please, teach me how to play the piano like she did. I don’t need Granddaddy’s rocker, but someone needs to know how to crack a joke like he did and fill the room with joy.
These are the things that fill our dwellings and make them homes: food, family, fun.
Is tradition important to your children?
Child Development experts agree, the answer is yes.
Traditions help mark the passage of time in a familiar and comforting way. They give us roots and allow us to accept change well.
I remember quite clearly when tradition became important in my life. It was a time of great change, ahem, the great change: Adolescence. During that tumultuous time, we all go through with challenges that aren’t visible to the rest of the world. We need deep roots to keep us strong. I began looking at my family history–as much of it as I could remember–and picking out the things that we always do that make us unique and solidify our bond as a family unit.
See, when my daughter was concerned about Taco Soup, she really wanted to know that her childhood was going to stay the same, that we will still do the things we’ve always done. Knowing that some things don’t change gives her security as she figures out what will change.
Tradition is important to younger ones too.
Not just holidays–though that can help them understand larger time periods like a year–but small, monthly, weekly, or daily traditions. Somehow, some time, our family established Family Movie Night on Friday nights. We usally eat pizza. Sometimes we go all out and bring in blankets and pillows and even mattresses! When my husband is on his way home, the kids start picking out the movie and setting up their little, pink meal trays in front of the TV. My girls are disappointed when this doesn’t happen.
Traditions help young children say “When this happens, I can expect this.”
Classroom teachers know the magic of daily traditions, sometimes called routines, for helping children do the right thing. A daily rhythm helps keep everyone on the same page. It’s one more reason to keep a predictable schedule.
But when you can’t stick to a schedule, just making traditons for your life will greatly improve the quality of the time you spend with your children. Be mindful of the things that work, and do them again. And again. And again. Pretty soon, someone will say “but we always do that!”
Traditions are one of the ways you can ensure that you are creating lasting memories with your children. If you’re a mom who does a million different things–like starting home-based business, researching homeschool curriculum, driving your kids to piano lessons, and remembering snacks for the soccer team–you may worry that you’re too distracted and not giving enough attention to creating a lasting legacy with your kids.
Establishing traditions with them can help you lay aside those fears.
In my Private Facebook Group of homemaking husters, The Joy Gathering, you can connect with other moms who feel the same way as you and talk about the traditions that you establish for daily, weekly, monthly, or annual family time. We’d love to have you in the conversation.
If managing time with your family and balancing the demands of a busy life is one of your goals, I’d like to personally invite you to my group of email buddies who get weekly tips on productivity and work-life balance for at-home moms. Just drop your email here: