When you live nearly 1000 miles away from your relatives, it can be hard to keep up with the family traditions that you grew up with. Because of my husband’s up in the air military schedule, booking flights and planning family visits can be a challenge.
Homemade pizza at my parent’s house after Christmas church service or summer days at the family cottage with my in-laws are just a couple of the countless family traditions that we seldom get a chance to enjoy these days. But in spite of this, we have had a wonderful opportunity to build our own traditions and strengthen the bond within our immediate family even more.
We’ve naturally adopted several traditions from each of our families for the holidays, and we’ve created many of our own in our daily life as well. For instance- spending every weekend summer afternoon having a ‘pool’ (kiddie pool) party in our backyard has quickly become a new regular for us. We soak up the sun and some quality time with each other without even leaving the house by cranking up the music and letting the kids make a pretty epic mess with water and sand..and we’ve done it nearly every weekend this summer.
Sure, we could get down on ourselves because we live in a super small town and there really isn’t much to do except play in the backyard. But we have decided to make this, among many other things we do as a family, an event and subsequently, a tradition. We want to nurture the relationships we have in our immediate family because we don’t have the automatic traditions of our families to latch onto for our own children. But we have noticed that our children especially thrive when they have a little regularity and routine in their daily life, and it has been especially important to establish regularity as much as we can despite the military lifestyle.
In a recent article on The Art of Manliness.com, married couple Brett and Kate McCay point out that “Traditions, when done right, lend a certain magic, spirit, and texture to our everyday lives.” Being a part of this magic, then, can help to strengthen the bond between those family members involved and increase feelings of security and happiness in a tangible way. For our family, playing in the backyard regularly and all together, without the distraction of work or cell phones, definitely becomes a magical thing. We’re all in it together. We don’t stress about the messy floors from sopping wet children running through the house at the end of the day, because it’s a mess made out of the love of simply being together.
Some of our traditions and rituals are much simpler than our backyard hangouts. At bedtime, I tell my children a story and then sing them the same song every night. After the kids are asleep, my husband and I will often have an evening snack and drinks before we go to sleep as well. These are essentially just things we do, but the fact that we do them regularly and cheerfully turn them into positive traditions for our family. And we will continue making new traditions and adapting old ones even when we move to the next duty station because these rituals give us purpose and bring us back to our roots – even if we were the ones who planted the tree.