Think back to something you loved about your childhood. I’ll bet you called up a treasured family tradition or a memory of holidays with people you love. So much of our identity is wrapped up in the way we grew up and the way our family did things. Traditions help us tell the story of who we are.
I love the holidays. Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas….you name it, I love it! We have traditions to commemorate nearly every major holiday and I love the way our family scrapbooks are a road map of our celebrations from year to year. Now that my sons are grown, they still participate—with their own children in tow now—in the things that make each season special. Traditions help us connect the generations.
Several weeks ago as we were closing up the pool and winterizing the camper, our five year old grandson was really bummed. He perked right up when I reminded him that when swimming and camping season was over, it was pumpkin time. Traditions give kids a frame of reference for the changing of the seasons and a rhythm for our lives.
We can’t wait to visit Fulton Farms next week. We’ll see the farm animals, play in the mini corn maze, get pictures with the “How Tall This Fall?” ruler and take a hayride to the pumpkin patch. Everyone—Nana and Pops included—gets to select their favorite and struggles to carry a perfect, enormous pumpkin to the wagon. I love that we have pictures of our grandkids enjoying the same family traditions we have had since our boys were little. Traditions unite us with one another.
When Halloween gives way to Thanksgiving, we’ll enjoy having family from out of town come in for a big dinner with all the trimmings. We might do some Black Friday shopping just for fun and then we always go downtown for the lighting of the big tree on that evening. Afterward, you can count on leftover pie and hot cocoa to warm everyone up. Traditions strengthen the bonds of families and help us pass on our values to younger generations.
We try to work in some new things here and there. We might go see the Christmas lights at the zoo or drive through a live nativity display, but the tried and true traditions are at the very heart of each season for me. My daughter-in-law’s family decorates Christmas cookies as a family. My family always traipses out to the tree farm to find a live tree. Every family is different, but the importance of having shared experiences and building memories together is the key.
Even small things that you always do together will take root and form special memories for your family. One of my treasured possessions is the fork and knife set that my grandmother always used for carving turkey and ham for family dinners. The knife isn’t even that sharp and the bone handles are not my personal style, but when I hold that set in my hands, it helps me recall gathering with cousins and aunts and uncles and my precious little grandma. Traditions evoke an emotional connection to our loved ones.
Be intentional about the customs you are creating with your kids. They don’t need to be lavish or expensive, just a time for you to do things face to face with one another. In a few short years, their childhood will be just a memory. Make it a good one.
Hi! I'm Janet and I've been the Director of the Before and After School and Smart Start Preschool Programs at the Troy Rec since 1994. My hubby and I have been married 30 years and we have two grown sons. Each of them is married and blessing us with grandchildren left and right. Life is good even when the nest is empty!