I’m sure we all have some similar family rituals. You must have experienced or at least heard of someone who has taken a road trip that included a parental threat of ‘don’t make me come back there’. Then there are the traditional family celebrations, sometimes with a twist; a favourite dish passed on through generations (I’ll give a shout out to Nana Ana’s fried cauliflower; I never met her but she must have been a good woman if not for anything else but passing this recipe forward). But I don’t want to talk about these ones.
There are also the family rituals we’ve been told by the experts that will contribute to our well being as a family unit. You know, the ones we try really hard to do consistently and then feel really guilty about when we fall behind?
- Dinners at the table together;
- Reading stories before bedtime;
- Board game nights.
I don’t want to take away from the importance of these because of their contribution to learning on a whole other level beyond just encouraging healthy family functioning (i.e. helping your kids develop language, communication and social skills, although for the record, you will likely experience some set back once the teen years set in, trust me). But I don’t want to talk about these ones either.
I’m digging deeper, for the ones that really connect us as families. The ones that no one but your family will understand or put up with for that matter, like a secret code. These are usually manifested by a particular family member’s ridiculous need and then take off from there. For example, your kids will likely start some funky ritual that will eventually morph into something considered perfectly acceptable. Case in point, every night for years I insisted my dad sing the Canadian national anthem before bedtime. The man obliged and so did everyone else in the house who had to listen to him. Totally normal.
Then there were the fire drills. Being the fire chief he was, my dad insisted we needed to have drills on a fairly regular basis. Personally, I’d like to think all families conduct them but I’m thinking probably not (but you probably should so you’re kids don’t just associate the sound of the fire alarm going off with dinner being ready). Sure, normal.
Fast forward to when my husband and I first moved in together. We would race to the mail box. If you reached it first then you won and it felt good to be the winner. If there was mail addressed to the loser? Awesome. If it happened to be personal mail? Mind blowing. I have no idea how this ritual actually started but I can tell you that it got to the point where we were trying to take each other out on the lawn. Two grown adults jumping over flower beds, tripping and hanging off each other to GET THE MAIL! Uh, yeah, normal.
After having our son, we added to our repertoire. Like my father, I too have belted out my fair share of song at bed time. While it’s freelance it must include lyrics pertaining to all the people and animals in this house (I must say it really is quite the laundry list for a small family). I thought our son would outgrow the need for this (did I mention he’s a teenager?) and I can generally get away with no tunes for lengthy periods of time but every now and again I am sucked into doing it out of sheer necessity to keep the ritual alive. Funny how payback is a bitch like that. OK, normal.
Add to the list:
- playing ‘boop boop’ with the dogs (don’t ask, but I can tell you it’s a totally legit game, that is for us);
- eating pretzels with hot sauce…and a side of water;
- arguing about the difference between a ‘California roll’ and a ‘complete stop’ on a fairly frequent basis;
- doing under cover agent voice overs for crows (aka-men in black);
- pouring cold water over the shower curtain
I’m sure this list goes on but sometimes it’s hard to identify those things that underneath it all, keep us connected. Rituals are signs of comfort and security. They are integral to our childhood memories and motivation to pass onto the next generation, even if they are just in the form of storytelling (because goodness knows I do not insist anyone in this house sing me the Canadian national anthem before bed. Just for the record.).