I want to make it clear up front that I'm not knocking anyone's specific traditions. But after our conversation yesterday I've been giving it some thought, and I think this is another area where we should think about needs rather than wants. This "need" thing is pervasive!!
Traditions are good. It's been shown in studies that families with traditions are stronger and more bonded. I'm all for them. And I'm not even going to touch Christmas or birthdays or other big traditions here. Those are sacred cows and what you do with them is your business. What I'm going to suggest is that simplifying some of our traditions might be a good idea. Also, we need to think about what we're trying to achieve with our traditions. That might help.
When we hear about a cute/fun/clever/educational idea that someone else does with their family, we often feel like that might be a good thing to do for/with our family on a regular basis for the rest of our lives (because that's what a tradition is). Maybe, and maybe not. According to this (short--please read) article, family traditions "bring a sense of belonging, familiarity, and routine to family members," which helps them feel secure and bonded.
So maybe it's time to take a look at our traditions and see what we can throw out that isn't achieving this goal, and what we should keep. Here are a few ideas I had that might help:
- Is this something we can keep up day after day or year after year? Is it sustainable? Can I gather my family together every single day for prayer? Yes! Can I take them all on a vacation to Tahiti every winter? No.
- How much does this tradition cost? This includes both time and money. Am I going to be able to spend the time I need to spend on making it work when I have small children running around or have to care for a sick/elderly parent? What if I'm short on funds? I'll feel obligated to keep the tradition going and may overspend.
- Does the tradition fit with our family values? I don't color my food green on St. Patrick's Day because I don't like to use food coloring. We don't celebrate Halloween because I don't feel like it fits with our personal religious beliefs. I feel okay about throwing some of those traditions out that are sometimes sacred to other families, because if I were to try and celebrate them, I wouldn't be being true to myself. My family humors me and goes along with it, knowing we'll do something else fun instead.
- What is the desired outcome of this tradition? It's okay if it's just fun, but it should also have some sort of point in terms of helping family members feel secure and bonded. These results may not be measurable now or even in ten years. But we should be able to look into our crystal balls and see something along the lines of a bonding experience when we plan our activities.
That said, I think it's a good idea for us to take stock and scale down if necessary. Some of us may need to scale up. That's okay too.
And while I don't think we should kill off Santa or the Tooth Fairy, we should maybe invite mythical beings to join our family traditions a little less often. First of all, it makes our kids bond with those "people" instead of with us. Second, it makes our kids' friends wonder why they aren't being visited, and practically forces their families to participate in all manner of traditions they may not be equipped to, or even want to. This defeats the purpose of promoting family bonding for other people. I think it's okay for the kids to know that we hid the eggs. It doesn't take away the magic of waking up to a treasure hunt. But it does mean that the kids need to give mom, dad, grandpa, or whomever a hug and thank you at some point. Talk about bonding!
I know I just started this huge "around the world" thing, but let me be clear: that's a project, not a tradition. I hope it will bear similar fruits, but I'm in a position to do that project now, and I don't have to keep it going forever. Also, I've given myself permission to take it slow and take breaks if necessary. Also, I'm trying to keep it simple. Bret wanted costumes for the whole family. I nixed that idea.
By the way, our Irish food was delicious last night. Almost everyone got in on the accent fun, and the movie ("Far and Away") was delightful, as always. And that was it. I think our kids will always remember these celebrations fondly, and all it took was me fixing dinner, which I probably would have done anyway, and taking a vote on a DVD before I slipped it in and pushed play.
And now I'm off to prepare for our big First Day of Spring tradition! Just kidding. Maybe I'll put a new wreath on the door or something.