Minnesota Mamaleh: Tradition!
Rhyme, I’m not really attached to. But, traditions? Yeah, those, I really do love. Adore. And seek out. They’re the fabric of a family, our family. And provide a semblance of order, routine and predictability to what is often, let’s just face it, the harried world that we live in. They also create that sense of fun, cohesiveness and feeling of I want to be here. Right here. For all of us.
Big traditions are easy to call out and wrap our minds around. They often circle around religion, holidays in particular. Favorite foods, activities, songs, prayers, relatives. Holidays and religious practices do, indeed, bring people together. If nothing else, for some delish food and the requisite family photo (see right).
And everyday, “ordinary” traditions? Those little gems give our family its spark. I love that my children know that they will have a “special day” for their birthday where they’re in charge of the food, the activities and the all-important dessert. I love that at dinnertime Kayli grabs for the silverware and Chloe grabs the napkins. And Brody? Well Brody grabs for sure (Napkins! Spoons! Plates! Oh my!) but “love” isn’t exactly the word that I’d use to describe his er- helping. At least not quite yet.
Hot chocolate and popcorn on the first snowy day of the season. Water fights. Rounds (And rounds. And more rounds) of Would You Rather? Treats hidden in popcorn. Chalk tracings on the driveway. That’s the busy, fun mess that is a family. The kids talk about these activities well in advance, totally off-season. Like when we were running through our sprinkler this afternoon and Chloe said, “I can’t wait to make a snowman!” Just like that.
I want my kids to have memories of some traditions for as far back as they can remember. Just the way it is. What we do. Who we are. Apple picking in the Fall. Picking out new dreidles at Chanukah. Planting flowers in the spring. Making challah on Shabbat. Somewhere along the way some (many?) of these traditions will stick. They’ll draw us together and give us fabulous photos to ooh-and-aww- over, stories to tell, laughs to share.
My parents and I had numerous big traditions to look forward to. The parties and dinners, vacations and trips are all memorable, for sure. But what really stands out in my mind are relaxed, delish weekend breakfasts. At our house that meant eggs, breads, shmears and fruit. Completely unthinkable and totally shocking for Jason whose family also had lovely weekend family breakfasts. But their Minnesotan feasts were filled to the brim with treats like monkey bread, pancakes or fresh waffles. We’re the ying and yang of breakfast foods, friends. Sweet and salty, at its best.
Even though our go-to meals were different, what really warmed both of our hearts, at the core, was actually the same. It was the time set aside to be together. And the fact that it was just a little bit different than the hustle-bustle of the work-week. When I’ll be honest with you, some days it just doesn’t get any better than cereal in a to-go cup because wehavetogettoschoolrightnow!!
A parent educator once shared that planned activities are important and fun, for sure, but what kids really want, need, crave and create memories around is simply the act of being together. And whether that’s at the zoo, at the water park or just in your front yard in the sprinkler, it’s all time together. That really resonated with me. I’ve taken many, many steps to tone down the wowy-pazowy factor of some of our traditions.
So knowing that and totally and completely respecting and being a sucker for the day-to-day traditions (Pie in pajamas! Manis and pedis! Popsicles outside!), why is my home and my family in a seemingly constant flutter of activities?
Well I’ll tell you. Just between you and me, it’s because I know that I’m gifting Jason and I memories with with our young children, as a family. And I’m gifting those young children a lifetime of values, lessons and what’s-importants all wrapped up in neat and tidy (well not really, but that does sound lovely, doesn’t it?) little packages known as traditions. And just like anything else, in parenting, there’s a fine balance of over-the-top and um- just at the top. (You know what I mean.)
Tradition is defined as beliefs or customs taught by one generation to the next. I love that.
Some traditions are not-to-be-messed with. We will always have ice cream for dinner one summer night, try honey sticks while apple picking and bake hamentashen at Purim. And wonderfully inherent within these traditions? Is the familiarity. The anticipation. The “known” quality.
But other times it’s not the same-ness that we’re seeking, striving, aiming for. It might not look identical from week-to-week or year-to-year. Maybe, the only quality that’s the same, that’s traditional is that the kids, and Jason and I for that matter, know that we can count on special days and special moments. Together. And that’s enough. That’s tradition.
Last weekend was the 4th of July. Hooray! Happy barbecue day to you! We talked to the kids about the freedoms fought for and gained. And then, we celebrated.
Like most of our traditions, our fourth of July was a big old mish-mash. Of big and small. Same and new. Calm and absolutely nuts-o. But all traditional. To us. And it was totally and completely worth it. At the end of the day, I think that all family traditions so-very-are.