Monday, October 19, 2009

Teaching Tuesday--Traditions

Traditions may not seem like they have much if anything to do with teaching, but it's through traditions that we teach our children the values we want them to pass on to the next generation.

I grew up in a family with very few traditions. My mom was a single parent until I was 16 and spent much of her time working and going to school. Still, each holiday season my mom made the time to bake cookies. We were dirt poor and my mom is a wonderful baker, so she gave of her talent to people for the holidays in the form of plates of cookies. I believe her record one year was 80 DOZEN cookies. She would start baking at Thanksgiving and would go til just a few days before Christmas. We were expressly not allowed to eat any of the cookies. Mom did give us permission to eat the broken and burnt ones.

What I learned from my mom wasn't just that "it's the thought that counts" but more along the lines of "you don't have to have a lot to give a lot" and a knife can scrape off burnt parts and a glass of chocolate milk can cover up a lot of burnt cookie taste.

Once I got married, I wanted to continue the cookie tradition. This is when I learned that I'm not my mom and I don't have to try to be! I don't bake well. My husband does not listen to the "don't eat those!" and will sneak cookies behind my back or just plain eat the cookie dough I have chilled in the fridge. It was time we established our own family traditions because mine weren't working!

I married in to a wonderful tradition that we've continued with our children. Christmas Eve they are allowed to open one gift. It's always PJs. My mother-in-law started this tradition with her children out of vanity necessity. Her boys always wore out their PJs and she wanted to have them in nice PJs for Christmas morning pictures.

Another family tradition of ours started quite by accident. One holiday, we wanted to give the children a lesson on serving others. They had been fighting more than usual, so D and I decided they needed to learn to serve each other. Into a hat each of our names went and we each drew someone in turn. During the week prior to Christmas, we were to do secret acts of service for the person whose name we drew. And, each person needed to make something special for that person, as well.We were to be Secret Service Santas! It was a huge success. It made such an impact that the next Christmas, the children came to us and wanted to know when they were going to draw Secret Service Santa names again! They came to us so excited for the acts of service they had planned. One of my little ones even asked if it were ok to do service for someone else in the family in addition to their special person. It was one of those moments where, as a parent, you know you've done a good job.

Our traditions don't just revolve around the holidays. Each child is taken to lunch with either mom or dad on his or her birthday. Any restaurant. I would be lying if I didn't say I was thrilled to be out of the McD's and BK stage with some of the kids! This year, Leelee has requested Olive Garden. It totally makes up for having to suffer through years of chicken nuggets.

Of course, we also have our traditions of entering at the fair and our futile attempts at gardening each year. These are meant to teach our children that even if you fail, you can still have fun and eventually you may succeed! I'm still waiting for the gardening success. Instead, I guess I have to pretend that these traditions we're creating with our children are little seeds we've planted. Eventually, they will sprout and carry on, bringing love and nourishment and encouragement to our children. (That seriously didn't sound nearly as sappy in my head).


  1. We didn't have a lot of traditions, either, but the one that I can remember, I am doing with my kids. Every year on the 23rd of Dec the "Elves" would come to check on us overnight. Ya know, to make sure we were being good for Santa. They would leave chocolate balls on all the window sills in the house, so when we woke up on Xmas eve morning, we would run around and collect all the chocolate. My kids love it and hopefully will pass it on to their kids someday!

  2. Traditions are very important in the family my husband and I have created. We've blended customs from both of our families of origin to give our children a rich, vibrant fabric to grow with.

    Our kids are still quite young, but the knowing and exictement they show towards holiday or seasonal traditions is so beautiful. It also serves to honor the family members we've lost over the last couple of years - to carry family traditions over to the youngest generation and teach them about where and who they came from.

  3. I love this! Particularly the secret service tradition!


Thanks and have a great day!