I'll give you a minute to ponder . . .
. . . Okay, are you done? What did you come up with?
For me, it was coming home from school each Valentine's Day, rushing to my room and feeling the pure joy and excitement of seeing the box of chocolates my mom had left on my pillow. The anticipation had been building all day. I spent an unusual amount of time at school looking at the clock, willing the second hand to move faster so that it could be time to go home already. And when I finally made it home and sprinted to my room, I inhaled the sweet aroma of chocolate that hung about my pillow, and at that moment, all of my dreams had come true.
I know, it may sound dramatic with all of my dreams coming true over a Whitman's Sampler. But I was a kid, and I loved chocolate. And I loved the fact my mom always left it on my pillow on Valentine's Day.
This memory of mine imprinted itself upon me more than most because it was a family tradition. I looked forward to it every year and the act of placing the gift on my bed the same way each year added a special touch to the experience.
And I'm betting most if not all of the memories you thought of about your childhood also stem around a tradition, something you or your family did on a regular basis. Am I right?
So what's my point to all of this?
I feel traditions are a dying art. We all want to give our kids a great childhood full of magic and happiness. But instead of relying on simple activities that bring families together, many of us feel we need to provide great big experiences in order to make incredible memories they'll never forget. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen someone post pictures on social media about a trip they've taken with their kids to a theme park, the beach, the ski slopes, or a carnival with the caption "Making Memories" in big letters. We assume bigger is better and that a simple weekly pizza and movie night cannot compare to a trip to Disney. Or that a trip to the skip slopes will be more memorable than snuggling up before bed to listen to mom read a story each night.
But we're wrong. Because simple is better. Period.
I'm not saying family vacations aren't great, because they can be a lot of fun. But they're not the activities our kids will remember the most about their childhood. Just think about your own self as a kid. I'm sure you remember some trips you took and have some neat memories from them. But when I first asked you to think of your best childhood memories, I'm betting a vacation wasn't one of them.
So what are some easy, inexpensive ways to add traditions to your family?
Daily, Weekly or Monthly Traditions:
- Pizza and Movie Night. We do this every Friday and my kids love it. In fact, my youngest declined a birthday party invitation so she wouldn't miss Pizza and Movie night (then I told her we could move it to Saturday and she decided to go to the party).
- Game Night. Dust off a game, sit around the table and have fun!
- Big Sunday Dinner or breakfast.
- Note in your kid's lunchbox every Friday. Could be a note to say you love them or to wish them a good day. Or it could be a joke to make them laugh.
- Donuts after church or baseball practice or dance lessons or . . .
- Take a walk or bike ride after each dinner in the summer.
- Take one of your kids on a date once a month (especially great for fathers and daughters). It can be out for pizza or maybe just ice cream or to the park for some one-on-one time.
- Eat dinner around the table every night and talk.
- Hug your kids first thing in the morning or the last thing you do at night.
- Weekly dance-off. Pop in the Just Dance disc into the Wii and bust a move. Just remember to close the blinds to avoid any awkward conversations with your neighbors.
- Story time before bed. Turn off the TV and put away the phone. Snuggle up on the couch or in your bed, grab a book and read a story (or a chapter) to your kids each night.
Many of us have mastered the yearly traditions, usually because they're from our own childhood. But these traditions are important and not to be forgotten. So let's review some old ones and add some new ideas.
- Make same batch of cookies each Christmas. For me, we made chocolate crinkles, and to this day, I crave these cookies every holiday season. I'm determined to make a Paleo version so I can enjoy them again!
- Open just one tiny gift each Christmas Eve. I tried to get my parents to do this but to no avail!
- Put a special treat in your child's lunchbox on the first day of school.
- Get your child's favorite candy or chocolate each Valentine's Day (and put it on their pillow!).
- Take a vacation to the same place -- a cabin on the lake or a local national park or a beach house. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, just find a place you love where you can relax and have fun.
- Go camping each year.
- Each Thanksgiving, pull out the same white table cloth and have everyone write what they're thankful for (use fine tip Sharpie markers, iron on hot before washing to prevent bleeding).
- Use the fine china plates for a special, fancy dinner. We do this for Christmas or Thanksgiving.
- Pick out and cut down your own Christmas Tree.
- Drink hot chocolate whenever there's a snow day.
Traditions are important to making our lives rich, to bonding families and to creating the most special memories we live with for our entire lives. More than the pricey one-time vacation to the theme park, they give ourselves and more importantly, our children lasting memories connected to deep emotions.
We feed our families good food, now let's feed them soul food.
Join the conversation!
What's your favorite childhood memory? What traditions do you do with your family?
I'd love to hear from you!