Children thrive when expectations are fulfilled (think routine, routine, routine); and traditions can be cement in the routine mold. There is something lovely about repeating an activity to mark the importance of a particular day or particular time of year. I mean, this is what birthday celebrations are all about.
Both of the boys’ birthdays are coming up in the next few weeks. Because of Maryann’s (see her comment) contribution to the blog a couple weeks ago, I’m starting the new tradition of kissing the boys at just the moment they were born. A virtual stamp of time and place. Driving to and from work this week (my down time), my head kept returning to thoughts about the new tradition. A big, wet smoooch that I’m giddy about it; it seems an entirely intimate tradition. Now I’m just sitting around waiting for 1:18pm and 3:11pm to roll around. Maryann, thank you for the idea of this symbolic tradition. I figure his tradition can also serve as an insurance plan, too. I will be exactly where I want to be in those birthday moments: with my boys.
Traditions can be complicated, as well. After my family moved to Central America when I was still in high school, I started to long for traditions. I remember the heartache I felt when I would hear my friends relish and enjoy their family traditions. My family was living in an entirely new world (rural Costa Rica) with an entirely new set of priorities (an environmental project); in that new space, all of my childhood traditions were lost. No more red, special plate on my birthday, no thanksgiving pickles, no oranges and candy canes on Christmas Eve, and no egg hunts on Easter. Transitions like a move away, or loss of a relative or friend change all this. These traditions are then incomplete when someone or some particular place is missing. I’ve been thinking about this more and more lately when I hear, see, and read about mounting foreclosures. All sorts of transitions for families. And families in clinic will often mention the mixed joy and significant grief that brew during the holiday season, particularly if they have recently lost a loved one. So yes, the holiday brings all colors and flavors of stress and joy. Traditions it seems can remedy and/or flare emotion. But I believe traditions do lighten some moments, too. In my first year out of college, I remember talking with a friend about my longing for tradition. She mentioned that when I had my own family, I would be able to create my own traditions. She was right. But some will simply be re-creations of those given to me in my own childhood.
My mom was a pianist and music teacher when I was growing up. Many of our traditions included music, of course. I grew up singing all sorts of songs and although I’m great at remembering melodies, I’m not so great at remembering the songs. I’ve found I’m a huge visual learner (I can remember exactly where on the page the I learned about Hunter’s disease but little specifics about the professor’s exact words from that lecture). There is an express lane in my brain to longterm memory via my eyes and more of a country road from my ears. But one song has always superseded my learning skill set. It’s one of the many songs my mom sang with me at Halloween. And today, it’s stuck in my head: “H, A, DoubleL, O, DoubleU, DoubleE, N spells Halloween.” My boys have heard it all day.
As we embark on the Halloween weekend and we journey into the season of Thanksgiving and many religious holidays, I am thinking about what traditions to continue, which to create, and which to addend. I believe traditions are one thing I can share and give to my boys that will continue long after I do. These traditions can help them understand and mark time, help them thrive. I hope traditions will provide stability, if and when the world doesn’t.
What traditions help your children mark and stamp time? Do you agree that they help your children thrive?