What's your cool family tradition?
March 8, 2005 6:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm a new dad and I want to create some cool, happy family traditions. What traditions do you most remember and treasure?

I'm looking for specific things that I can do with my wife and daughter (and any other kid that hopefully comes along) that can become a tradition in our house. One that we plan on doing is taking a picture of the kids with Mom or Dad, in the same place if possible, each year on Mother's Day and Father's Day, respectively.

I've also heard of people who always pay tooth fairy money in silver dollars (makes it more magical), go out for pizza every Sunday, and make "Mr Bojangles" ice cream clowns - with a cone for the hat and m&ms for the eyeballs - each year on their birthday.

What did you do that you remember fondly or will pass along to your own kids?
posted by AgentRocket to Human Relations (49 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe the time has passed for this, but when my bro and I were kids, perhaps from like 5 or 6 on to about 10 or 11, the whole family would get together on a friday night and have Fondue Night. Fondue is like the perfect thing for kids....or maybe my bro and I were weird...I dunno. Basically you get to have a long hang out at the table while you play with long forks and meat and such. Because Fondue takes quite a while to do, there's a lot of time to talk and be silly and other nonsense while whatever you are fonduing is cooking.

Then, after the Fondue, we would have Yahtzee Night. I don't know if Yahtzee is passe at this point, but me and the bro loved it. We'd play with the parents all night. Maybe kids don't have the attention span for Yahtzee anymore so you might have to substitute, I dunno, Grand Theft Auto Vice City Night or something, but you get the point.

We would do this like once or twice a month. It was always something to look forward to. Then again, the 70s were in some ways a more innocent time...we didn't have cable...so your results may be different than ours.
posted by spicynuts at 7:08 AM on March 8, 2005

Every Christmas, buy or create a unique ornament that commemorates that year. It's a way to physically record the years you've spent together.
posted by SPrintF at 7:12 AM on March 8, 2005

A friend has clay handprints of herself each year, and now is doing this with her daughter and son. awww!
posted by handee at 7:18 AM on March 8, 2005

I found in my family, the key was that our traditions were things we wouldn't feel forced or obliged to do, but more traditions that were about being untraditional.

Since that was a horribly convoluted sentence, I'll give an example: My (atheist Quaker) family celebrated Christmas by staying in our pajamas all day then having a Christmas dinner consisting of whatever each family member wanted to eat.

I think the "do x every y" traditions definitely have merit too, but I think I treasure our family album full of casual snapshots of us having a good time together at least as much as I would a picture of us posing together every year. Not that the two are mutually exclusive by any means.
posted by ITheCosmos at 7:20 AM on March 8, 2005

My parents would sneak into our rooms while we were asleep on the night before our birthday and fill the space with balloons stuffed with toys and money. Then they'd write up a bunch of poems and paste them throughout the house.

It was such a rad experience to awaken every birthday morning to those balloons and then run around the house reading all of the poems.

The poems were simple ones like:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Today's your birthday,
And we love you!

Highly recommended tradition!

Also, my mother refused to buy my sister and I sugary breakfast cereal except for on our birthdays. After running around the house looking at all of the poems, we'd get dressed and go pick out our cereal. Nothing was sweater than my yearly Lucky Charms.
posted by AmaAyeRrsOonN at 7:20 AM on March 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

When my daughter (first) was about eighteen months old, I started taking her out every thursday afternoon for pizza and a carousel ride, for about two years, until we had her sister. The pizza place was this narrow, small place with a row of stools a foot from the wall with the daily papers hanging on the walls. It was the first food she ever ate with complete vigor and enthusiasm. I suppose as a tradition it isn't up there with some others, but as a new dad afternoons like that will be something that you'll never forget - do everything you can to spend time alone with your little one whenever you can.
posted by docpops at 7:24 AM on March 8, 2005

For some reason, on Christmas eve, my parents would always buy me and my sibs new pajamas. It was always exciting to get a new matching pajama shirt and pants featuring the ninja turtles or hockey players.

Also, on Father's Day and Mother's Day, we always provide them with coupons promising to do certain chores, and then never do them. I think us kids enjoyed that one more.

I think some of the best traditions are connected to extended family members and are typically associated with food. Whenever we would visit my grandfather we would go to Swiss Chalet, sledding, and the Toronto Metro Zoo, and my grandmother would take us to Licks (a burger and shake place) and then window shopping on Queen Street. Because of that, I have lots of happy memories associated with those places that I would not have otherwise.

Another tradition my grandparents on my other side of the family had was to take me out to dinner somewhere for my birthday nicer than my parents could afford. I always thought this was a great thing and a way for me to get to know my grandparents a lot better. (this is something I would definitely want to continue)

My family also had a great tradition of making home-made pizza and everyone making their own toppings for a personal pizza and helping out.

Little things like a red creme soda after a baseball game, or always being there for a piano recital were definitely appreciated. I think you'll find as you go that a lot of traditions develop naturally, you just keep doing the stuff thats the most fun and meaningful. Good luck and congrats on being a new dad :)
posted by tweak at 7:26 AM on March 8, 2005

When I was young, on Saturday mornings my Dad would cook breakfast. It was always an elaborate meal, which was nice. I helped him cook and learned lots from him.
posted by renyoj at 7:27 AM on March 8, 2005

Spicynuts - This was somewhat of a tradition with my brother and I growing up. In fact we just had Fondue Night this past weekend and introduced his young children to the wonders of hot oil and curry dipping sauce.

One tradition that I can't imagine my life without is tailgating for and attending Michigan football games with my family. While sporting events are certainly not the "end all, be all" of family traditions, they do provide a great venue for family bonding. As my mom would attest, it isn't really the game that matters. She hasn't actually stepped foot in the stadium in like four years, despite having a ticket to every game. It is the gathering of friends and family on a sunny afternoon that is important.
posted by Armen Tanzarian at 7:27 AM on March 8, 2005

Two that stick out in my mind are

-Always having friends and family over to eat broiled lobsters and fruit salad and watch the Dolphins play on a tiny little black and white TV my Dad set up in the backyard(my uncle is a commercial diver, so the lobsters were free; it might be a bit expensive to replicate, but I'm sure hot dogs would be just as fun, especially for kids). The food, the heat, the friends, it was all so much fun.

-Going hiking in the Appalachians every summer. We were never closer as a family than when we'd all get to the top of some peak and sit back, exhausted, and enjoy nature's majesty.
posted by saladin at 7:36 AM on March 8, 2005

Start camping when your kids are old enough.
posted by docpops at 7:38 AM on March 8, 2005

When I was in grade school, I took judo Saturday mornings for a couple of years at the church. After class my dad would pick me up and we'd go across the street to get pizza at the mall. To this day I can remember vivid details of those lunches. The funky 70's style food-court seats, the way the burnt-crispy pepperoni tasted, etc.

So I don't really think it matters exactly *what* you do as long as you *make* it a tradition, and do it regularly, and with love.

Also, to this day, I wish my parents hadn't let me quit judo (and a bunch of other stuff) when I got a bit tired of it.
posted by Capn at 7:45 AM on March 8, 2005

I remember going fishing with my Dad and Grandfather almost every weekend from the time I could walk until I left for college. It was an unspoken thing that every Saturday , if the weather was decent, we were going fishing. Also, we always went to same cottage at York Beach, Maine, every summer for a week. And when my sister and I were a little older we were allowed to bring a friend with us on the trip. Lots of great memories from those trips.
posted by white_devil at 7:45 AM on March 8, 2005

Every so often we will declare a "Family Holiday" during the week. I'll call off work, no school for the boy, and we will go somewhere we all enjoy (last time we went to Gameworks.) We'll commemorate the day with a group photo from one of those photo sticker booths. The stickers from past "holidays" adorn our fridge.

And tailgating is a blast too.
posted by Otis at 7:48 AM on March 8, 2005

For christmas, baking really large gingerbread hearts and decorating them with colored sugarcream, one crated by me and one created by my brother. Mum would tie a string through the top hole in the huge heart and hang them in the windows as decoration. After christmas we got to eat the whole thing!
posted by dabitch at 7:53 AM on March 8, 2005

agreed on the camping...It just brings a family together to be isolated from friends, TV, computer, chores...nothing to do but be together. Actually there are chores at the campsite, but nobody seems to see them that way. Every family should go at least once a year. The most fun part is our filthy unbathed selves eating at a diner on the way home, such a luxury after eating camping meals.

A few of our xmas traditions: Each year I slice off three pieces of that year's tree trunk, about a quarter inch thick, drill a little hole at the top, and sock them away with the decorations. The next year when we pull out the decorations the kids make ornaments out of last year's tree trunk slice thingies. They're just the right size and weight, with plenty of room on both sides for paint, glitterglue, etc.

My wife does an advent calendar with little notes for each kid on each day. The note might be something fun to do or have, or some holiday-related task ("make a card for someone in our familiy"). The kids like to come down each day and see what's on tap.

Christmas morning is crepes for breakfast. Same on Easter. No crepes any other days of the year.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:55 AM on March 8, 2005

My dad used to create an Easter morning indoor egg-hunt. He would put a plastic eggs in our Easter basket with a clue inside, that would lead to the next egg with the next clue, etc. Following all the clues ultimately led to a small gift, although it wasn’t about the gift -- we remember the game more than any of the actual prizes. If you don’t celebrate Easter, you could do a similar game on the kids’ birthdays, the first day of spring, or any time, really.

Dad also did the giant-Sunday-breakfast thing; which he still does to this day when we all visit. Occasionally, he would give us a tiny splash of coffee in our milk, which to us was the coolest thing ever. Really, any cooking with kids is such a great way to spend time with them and get them talking and learning, and creates great memories.

Among our many other food-related traditions: Our pizza night was every Friday, each kid got to choose anything they wanted for their birthday dinner (in fact, we still do that), and it wasn’t Christmas morning without ham and eggs for breakfast, made from the Christmas Eve ham, of course.

We also did a photo-in-the-same-spot-each-year; for us it was just before leaving for the first day of school.

Finding an activity that’s yours and yours alone to do together is a great idea. My brother played baseball and golfed with Dad; for me it was miniature golf and roller skating.

I fully agree that it doesn’t matter so much what you do, as long as it’s regular and involves lots of time spent together. Also, this is a really sweet post. :)
posted by boomchicka at 7:59 AM on March 8, 2005

My dad and I went to breakfast together every Saturday when I was young. When I got older, and liked to sleep in, we would go to lunch - usually we'd get McDonalds and take it to the beach, where we'd eat on the tailgate of the truck. I always remember that.

Also, picking dinner on our birthdays was great fun.

So were the "big game" parties - Superbowl, College Football, College Basketball. Even though very few of my family actually cared about the games, my parents would make different kinds of "pools" that we could participate in, from a young age.

Honestly, the thing I remember most about my dad is that every single day before he went to work he came in and kissed me good bye. At 6am. If it was 6:10 and he hadn't been in yet, I'd wake up and go track him down to make sure he didn't forget. This went on until he retired when I was in the 8th grade. It took until my second year of college to stop waking up at 6 every morning, just to turn over and go back to sleep. I remember being very sad when I realized I had stopped waking up.

There must be many more.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:03 AM on March 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

Let me be contrarian: start no tradition. Enjoy the small things and the good times, but be spontaneous and always adjust to changes in your relationship with your family.

Why? Reliance on nostalgia is damaging. If your daughter turns 13 and decides that she wants to hang out with her friends instead of have Tuesday pizza at the mall with her dad, you have created a great - and mostly artificial - schism between childhood and adolescence. Everything should instead be built on small adjustments due to changes in age, experience, and maturity, and responding to these gradual shifts in the family dynamic will foster long-term cohesiveness to a greater extent than "tradition" ever can.

Don't get me wrong. I admire your objective. But don't think that this is the only way to accomplish it.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:10 AM on March 8, 2005

My dad every year talks to the local clergy and finds a needy family. We find out how old their kids are and the kind of stuff they need and then we would go shopping for them and buy a ton of presents for them. It was cool because we were picking out stuff for other kids and my folks would shop for the parents. On Xmas eve we'd drive over to thier house at around 2a.m., drop the presents on the doorstep, ring the bell, and run. Some of my happiest moments were running blindly through the woods away from someones house and watching in the shadows as they opened the door and realized what was going on. I never knew who we were giving that stuff to, my dad would never tell us, or them. I've always thought that it was a great tradition that has helped me understand what it means to be selfless.
posted by trbrts at 8:11 AM on March 8, 2005 [2 favorites]

I know I'm going for two here after revealing an ancient and secret family recipe in the dip thread, but...
My family has always done clues on Christmas. Every present you give has to have a clue on the back of the tag, and before the person may open they have to give it a good guess. At the end of the evening, we hold the Clue Contest during which we vote for Best Clue of the year. It is very competitive. The winner takes home a plastic Santa from 1985 and gets to put him, complete with plastic case and stand, on his/her mantle for the year. Example of a winning clue:

"Bashful bovine gliding down the Alps" for a Tchaikovsky cd; some feathers were ruffles when that one won, if I recall correctly.

This is a pretty good tradition for kids because they have fun guessing (they get to be the center of attention when their turn comes) and it gets them to slow down and savour the experience. It's even better if you get the extended family in there, though.
posted by Crushinator at 8:13 AM on March 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

We used to go out for Sunday breakfast each week, and then take turns deciding what outing we were going to do for the day. Aquarium, zoo, going for a walk, whatever -- I do remember most of them being outdoorsy non-TV or -movie things. We apparently had stopped by the time my brother was old enough to remember (because he doesn't), but I definitely remember it as the highlight of my week, and I think it's made me slightly less TV-prone.
posted by occhiblu at 8:18 AM on March 8, 2005

The best traditions are the ones that weren't meant as such. They're just the little things you do without intention. OK, maybe that's not entirely correct. As long as the intention is showing affection, that's all that's necessary.

The real traditions, the ones your kids will remember and treasure, will come all on their own. The ones you try to plan, the ones you design as "a very special moment", those will be quickly forgotten. In reading many of the "traditions" above, that's what I see. Families just doing family stuff, just spending time together.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:19 AM on March 8, 2005

Oh! Every year on my birthday, or as close to it as possible, my dad and I went to a Tiger's baseball game. This usually meant I got to skip school. When I turned special ages - 13 and 16, and maybe some others - I got to bring friends. Dad and I have been to hundreds of ballgames, but I always remember the birthday games!
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:25 AM on March 8, 2005

My mom used to take us out on "mystery trips" on hot summer evenings. I think the big deal was the car had air conditioning. She would pick a destination and not tell us what it was until we arrived. Most of the time, honestly, the mystery trips were lame, but it did keep us engaged and looking out the window for things coming up ahead.

A former colleague with 5 kids sets aside one day a month for "going on a date" with one of his kids for an activity that the child chooses. It's basically a way to formalize spending one-on-one time with his children to make sure they understand that they are special to him.

Some things were done just to mark special things. One summer my two brothers and I all had swimming lessons. It also happened to be an olypmic year. My dad made a point of having a special swimming day at the end of the summer (dang it was cold) where he gave us each gold medals that he made from round pieces of wood covered in gold foil and hung on red white and blue ribbon.
posted by plinth at 8:40 AM on March 8, 2005

One tradition that I can't imagine my life without is tailgating for and attending Michigan football games with my family.

Armen are you sure you're not some long lost twin of mine? My dad went to UM and we would also always go to his friend's house who went to OSU and watch football games. I ended up going to UM as well, so I'm sure I'll continue this. Now, if you played Yahtzee too, I'd be scared.
posted by spicynuts at 9:09 AM on March 8, 2005

Read to your kids (and pretty much nothing is "too old for them," as long as you feel morally comfortable with the content.)
My parents used to spend hours and hours reading to me. It was wonderful.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:14 AM on March 8, 2005 [2 favorites]

Armen are you sure you're not some long lost twin of mine?

It sounds like we could be separated at birth. My dad went to Michigan (Class o' 67) as did I (Class o' 97). I (well my wife, but I am trying to be as involved as I can) am having a baby this summer. I can't wait to get the littles to a game.

I think you got all the Yahtzee genes though. I su-diddly-uck at rolling dice.
posted by Armen Tanzarian at 9:18 AM on March 8, 2005

Yeah, my dad (who worked long hours during the week, so didn't see us as much as my mom) used to read to my brother and me every single night. And when we were old enough to read, he let us read all the character voices (so that he would read all the narration and we got to do funny voices!).
posted by occhiblu at 9:20 AM on March 8, 2005

We would color Easter Eggs together, knowing Mom would hide them in the morning for us to find. It was always fun to see the designs each of us created on our eggs. We could use almost anything we wanted to color our eggs in addition to those cheap dye kits from the store. My husband and I have continued this with our son.

On Christmas Eve, we were always allowed to open one small gift. The rest had to wait until Christmas morning.

On our birthdays, we were always allowed to select the type of cake Mom would bake and what we would eat for our birthday dinner. We could choose to go out to any restaurant or Mom would cook us whatever we wanted. My sister would always want to go out. My brother and I would usually have Mom make us enchiladas or lasagne. When I was 10, Mom treated me to a special one-on-one dinner at a Japanese steak house. I had never used chopsticks before and the chef said I must be part Japanese because I did so well. It was such a fun meal.
posted by onhazier at 9:28 AM on March 8, 2005

We celebrated St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6. We'd put our shoes in a line and then go sing carols or something with one parent while the other parent (or an older sibling) would fill the shoes with candy and little treats. Awesome holiday!
posted by GaelFC at 9:52 AM on March 8, 2005

Going along with what Capn said, I did the martial arts for a number of years back in the day. After almost every practice, my dad and I went to Taco Mac for some awesome wings. Then, when I got older, a sports bar by us had a "Two for Tuesday" special with more great wings so that was our new "wings tradition." In both cases, they were nice little traditions of something I love- free food and little or no pressure to actually continue the tradition because I wanted it.
posted by jmd82 at 9:58 AM on March 8, 2005

When my brother and I were little we used to play 'spot the phallic symbol' with our mother. Which probably explains a great deal about us... :-)
posted by Nick Jordan at 10:02 AM on March 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

You only get to open one present on Christmas eve - but you get to pick which one!
posted by Pressed Rat at 10:08 AM on March 8, 2005

It's funny how so many of us have the same traditions we thought belonged just to our family.

- One Christmas present opened Christmas eve.
- Being able to sneak into the living room early Christmas morning and take our stockings back to bed (I know now this was to let the adults sleep in a little longer, but still...).
- Chosing your own birthday cake and birthday dinner.
- Helping to can fruits and veggies every summer.
- Camping a couple times every summer at Black Star Canyon.
- Somehow enough money was scraped up so we could visit Disneyland almost every summer (we rarely lived more than an hour from it).
- We played a lot of Monopoly (everything that was to be paid to the bank, except for real estate stuff, was placed in the center of the board and whomever landed on Free Parking won the pot), Scrabble and miscellaneous card games.

Not exactly a tradition, but we were so broke that going out to dinner was a very special treat. I remember trips to Shakey's for pizza and McDonald's for burgers (a fry, a bite of cheeseburger and a slurp of orange soda all at once...yum!).

Before I decided not to have kids, I had always told myself that one day a month was going to be a kid's choice day, one for each kid. I suppose that came from being one of five kids and literally never having any one-on-one quality time with a parent.
posted by deborah at 10:11 AM on March 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

On our birthdays, we got to pick exactly what we ate for breakfast (when I was a kid, it was raised glazed doughnuts and grape juice- makes me queasy just to think about it.)

There were three kids in my family, and my Dad would take turns taking each one of us out to lunch on Saturday. The deal was, of course, that the bedroom had to pass inspection, and all other chores had to be finished. It wasn't ever anyplace fancy (usually something like Denny's) but to have one-on-one time with Dad over a meal, once a month, was great.
posted by ambrosia at 10:18 AM on March 8, 2005

Michigan football games -- yes!

I second GhostintheMachine's comments. (I feel a little guilty that I don't always remember the museums we went to, plays we watched, vacation destinations, etc., when I was little. I DO remember a lot of tiny unrelated details, like the kind of snacks we'd get to eat in the car when we were going on vacation. Now when I go on long car rides, I take along the same kinds of snacks.) Memories are slippery.

Also: You don't really realize what you had that someone else didn't get to have. A friend once asked me what a rootbeer float tasted like. (Someone in the world had never shared, over time, thousands of rootbeer floats with their dad? -- I could hardly believe it.) I described the glory of the rootbeer mixing with the vanilla ice cream, the foam at the very top of the glass, how the taste changed in stages from top to middle to bottom of the glass . . . and ever since having been asked this, I've been much more nostalgic about the seemingly-insignificant rootbeer floats we used to make.
posted by oldtimey at 10:22 AM on March 8, 2005

When my sister and I were little, our parents both smoked. Years later, whenever we're asked about family traditions, the first one that always comes to mind is how we had to let them have a cigarette before we could go downstairs and unwrap presents. The dual glowing embers in the sunrise....

(Yes, it amuses us to watch people try to decide if they should be horrified or not.)

On to actually helping answer the question: I agree with those who have said that the best traditions often evolve. Our hometown had a AAA baseball team and you could get a discount admission card from your school. My dad would take us a couple of times a season and that was always a lot of fun. My daughter saw a gingerbread house kit at the store a couple of years ago, and we've made them every December since then. Pretty low key stuff, but lots of fond memories.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:29 AM on March 8, 2005

Most weekends, my dad would usually do some sort of project/activity with me. Usually it was science-related stuff, which meant a lot to me because my dad was a chemist and I wanted to grow up to be like him. So, we'd make model rockets, go to rock shows, do simple experiments with household supplies, etc. Had a huge impact on the person I am today, even though I ended up in the arts instead of the sciences.
posted by Sangre Azul at 10:38 AM on March 8, 2005

Yes, read to them. Annual traditions are fine for nostalgia, but it's the things that you do every day that will help them turn out right.

One simple tradition I haven't seen mentioned is that we sing a simple blessing before supper - if we're all there, which we try very much to be. We're not religious at all, but this extra 20 seconds of singing together (in unison on weeknights, and making up harmonies on weekend nights) does seem to have a positive effect on the dining atmosphere, helping to make a definitive break between whatever we were "bringing to the table" and the meal itself.

As to Christmas traditions, every Christmas Eve culminates with our kids watching our ancient videotape of "How The Grinch Stole Christmas!" and now, usually, a couple of old WB cartoon shorts too. Warning: This tradition may not be as effective if you have the kids watching TV the other 364 days. (So, think ahead!)
posted by soyjoy at 10:54 AM on March 8, 2005

In keeping with the sports-related traditions, my Dad used to pull a really sneaky/awesome trick on my brother and I. Not every year, but at least 5 or 6 times in the elementary/middle school years my Dad would pick us up from school, ostensibly to take us to some odious activity (usually doctors/dentist appointment), but eventually we would realize that we were, in fact, heading towards Fenway Park for an afternoon Red Sox game. The spontaneous and unpredictable nature of the tradition combined with the fact that we were "sneaking" out of school (with Dad as our accomplice) to enjoy the Sox made it all the more fun.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:10 PM on March 8, 2005

Family camping trips, board game night, cooking with my dad every sunday dinner, things like that I think everyone has, but the most important family tradition we ever had was reading to the kids (either mom, dad or older sibling would read) and eating dinner with all T.V's off, books put away, conversation required. It's daily together time that really makes a family.
posted by nile_red at 1:50 PM on March 8, 2005

I've had dinner with my daughter just about every Wednesday for, oh, 7 years or so. I've been divorced from her mother for going on 6 years now, so the tradition started while I was still married, and has continued more-or-less unbroken since then. It's nearly always just me and her. Nothing fancy--often it's McDonald's. But it's a great time for us to chat and just hang out, made even more special by the fact that I don't get to see her every day any more.

And I have lunch with her on her birthday every year, too, her choice of venue. She gave me a "top ten things I love about Dad" list this yaer for Father's Day, and those traditons were on the list.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:01 PM on March 8, 2005

Response by poster: These are some gorgeous answers. Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences. This is why I love AskMe.
posted by AgentRocket at 2:06 PM on March 8, 2005

Bit late to the thread..

The family tradition thing seems to have several parts, and here is a random chunking:

1 - enjoying time together that you wouldn't otherwise
2 - giving the child a sense of time passing and the stability of the family by marking regular intervals
3 - providing the child with a known special occasion or treat that they can look forward to
4 - providing the grown-up child with solid happy memories

My family managed
(1) mostly by regular family meals, especially Sunday lunch
(2) by occasional markers like looking at photos or talking about holidays past, or a photo on the first and last day at a new school
(3) by making use of the usual religious yearly calendar plus birthdays etc
(4) mainly by impromptu events, plus a goodly lot of no. 3 type events

My point is that for me the looking-forward-to factor was the best and most memorable by far. If I were ever told in advance about something nice that was going to happen, it could brighten my life for weeks. And yet, for another child, it might be the surprise, or the predictability, or the warmth of family time. So, my point actually is that the family tradition idea is great because of all that it can impart, but it's worth looking at ways of spreading around the benefits so that they hit the mark for the particular child.
posted by suleikacasilda at 3:11 PM on March 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

We opened one gift on Christmas Eve. It was usually pajamas. (Another family tradition is the argument about whether or not to open any gifts that night or wait until morning.)

We got letters from the tooth fairy, Easter bunny, and Santa. They each had different handwriting styles.

Santa would use special wrapping paper (different from what we had used for gifts). He'd then hide the leftover roll somewhere so that we could use it next year.

Santa left his footprints the last few places he stepped before leaving our house. They were stiff green felt with silver glitter around the edges. My brother and I would wake up early to find them. Later in the day they would mysteriously "melt" when we were distracted by toys and mom or dad could sneak them out of sight.

The birthday kid got to pick what we ate for dinner that night.

My mom used to write little notes on cut out pieces of paper and leave them in my lunchbox. It was often just "Remember you have girl scouts today" on a trefoil shape or "I love you" on a heart, but it was nice to be thought of.
posted by belladonna at 8:19 PM on March 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

Make an effort to sit down to table together, for dinner, as many days in the week as possible. And make apologies when this isn't possible. Families are always families, not just on special days.

I know this is really unusual these days. What a pity. I suspect a careful examination of the reasons might be enlightening, although not exactly easy.
posted by Goofyy at 11:23 PM on March 8, 2005

One thing my family did that I remember really was having breakfast for dinner. Pancakes and bacon, for example. That really thrilled me as a kid to be eating breakfast foods for dinner. We didn't do this on a regular schedule, just when my mom or dad announced it. Who knows, maybe it was when my mom couldn't figure out what else to make for dinner? But we kids enjoyed it. It prompts me to think that it might be neat to do something similar called Backwards Day, where you eat dinner for breakfast, and breakfast for dinner, and perhaps do other stuff in reverse order.
posted by Alex Marshall at 7:42 AM on March 16, 2005

We would always make waffles if it was a snow day (only 2 or 3 times a year at most) and then go sledding.

Another cool tradition is actually from family friends--each child always got a book under their pillow on Christmas morning.

I always thought I would do this if I had kids (unlikely).
posted by exceptinsects at 3:20 PM on January 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

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