Thursday, November 29, 2012

Developing Family Traditions: Everyday Celebrations

Howdy Humble Readers!

(Ok... so I said I was going to publish this post a week ago.  Migraines and teething children and birthday parties sort of put it out of my head.  My apologies.)

I think, when people think of traditions, they think of the big events.  Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter... the big holidays when all the family gets together.  Those are all very important, and I will be posting about them later in this series. 

But there are so many more days in the year.  So many more moments to be commemorated and celebrated. Moments to pause and truly take in the achievements and growth of our families.  To me it's all about being intentional, about living more in the moment, and about teaching my children to do the same. 

Some examples of what I mean:
  • great academic effort/achievement (awesome score on a test, improving a grade, etc)
  • winning a spelling bee
  • before an especially tough day (like before an exam or a big game)
  • making the soccer team/winning a game/losing a tough game
  • recovering from an illness (like chicken pox, or having a cast removed)
  • overcoming a challenge (fear of speaking in public, remembering their first locker combination)
  • leaving/coming home from camp
  • mastering a new skill
  • getting a new badge in boy/girl scouts
  • before/after a dance performance
  • exceptionally good behavior
And there is also an area that, within western culture, has diminished... rites of passage:
  • learning to ride a bike
  • moving from kindergarten to elementary school, elementary to middle school, etc
  • being old enough to stay home alone
  • first cell phone/computer/tablet (whatever the newest expensive technology they crave)
  • first job
  • getting ears pierced
  • getting a driver's licence
  • first date/first formal dance (granted this one could be tough to celebrate with a teen, but you get the idea)
I think it's important that parents set the tone for how both positive and potentially negative events are handled within the confines of the family.  How a parent responds to an event that their child sees as life-altering will affect not only how the child responds, but how the child views himself and how he will face the world in light of the event.  Allow me to illustrate.

I was six years old when I had to start wearing glasses.  I was upset about it because I was only the second kid in my class who had glasses (and the other kid was the sickly one who had to stay in at recess all the time).  On the day I got my glasses, when my bio-mom and I pulled into the yard, my bio-dad came up to the car, leaned in my window, and called me 'four eyes' and laughed.  I was devastated.  For years I felt that my dad thought less of me because I wore glasses.  If, instead of marking that milestone moment with mocking and laughter, my parents had chosen to celebrate the fact that I could now see and do better in school, I might have had more confidence in the change, rather than spending a couple of years trying to hide/lose my glasses.

As parents, I think we need to remind ourselves to think how our kids think.  An event may seem trivial to us, but it is life-changing to a seven year old.  And in validating their feelings (within reason), we can help to shape our children into healthy and happy people.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not implying that all of these kinds of events need to be celebrated in big ways.  But it does require a teensy bit of planning.  Particularly because some of these kinds of events will sneak up on you.

Dollar store plates, sharpies, and baked at 350F for 30 min.
(this one can actually double as a dessert plate or a shallow bowl)

Full size plate
(really not happy with the lettering, but who cares)
So, now, while our wee-lings are still so young, I am taking some time to plan out how we will commemorate and celebrate the little victories. 
  • I made these 'special days' plates.  They aren't anything really spectacular, but they are something that we can use at the drop of a hat when a an ordinary day becomes extraordinary. 
  • a secret stash of crepe paper streamers, ribbon and balloons is always a good idea.  It's easy to decorate a dining room chair or a bedroom door in just a couple of minutes
  • make up a stash of 'coupons' for a night off from chores, for staying up an extra half hour, or for a trip to the ice cream shop/bookstore/movies (depending on the magnitude of the achievement and your budget)
  • allow them to choose a special meal or dessert
And I think, no matter how big or small you choose to celebrate, it's important that our kids hear us brag about them.  Call Grandma, aunties and uncles, or family friends and share you child's victory.  Mention it to their teacher.  Or your pastor.  Anyone else who is invested in seeing your child succeed and be happy. 

Oh... don't forget to include yourselves and your beloveds in the celebrating.  Children need to see adults to take pride in both the big and small events. 

Are there everyday events that I missed on my lists?  Milestones and rites of passage?  How do you or think you will celebrate the 'smaller' moments in the life of your family?

Next up in the series... Birthdays and Unbirthdays!


  1. I like this post. It got me thinking about lots of other traditions too, not just the big holidays in the year. Right now, I'm focusing on Christmas and wondering how that will play our year to year with my little family and our extended family, plus CB working shift work. Could make for a different tradition every year lol!

  2. OH. MY. YES!!! A thoughsand times YES!

    I need to do this for my son as well! And can I just say,.. that i LOVE the plate idea! I am totally STEALING! YES YES YES!


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