The text read, “Wanna play in the cul de sac and have a picnic dinner for the kids? I’m just making PB&J for mine.”
“Yes!” we all answered.
One warm, fall Friday evening, several neighbors gathered in the street. We brought snacks, blankets, water bottles, and toys. Just like that, a new ritual began. Every evening of the warmer months, as families make their way home from work and school and daycare, we make our way outside. The kids snack and race their bikes and trikes; parents take turns running in to throw dinner in the oven or order a pizza. (Pizza Party Friday!)
Sometimes we laugh until our sides hurt. Sometimes we’re mostly quiet and tired. Sometimes the kids hug and giggle. Sometimes they stomp to their respective homes and slam the doors.
It is perfection.
Is it mandated? Is it strict? Of course not. But you can find us out there more often than not. It has become our unspoken ritual, this thing we look forward to all day. For a little while, the demands of adulting fall away and we enjoy one another and simple pleasures.
My friend’s family eats breakfast at the same place every Saturday morning. The staff know their orders.
An acquaintance says her family eats popcorn and rents a movie every Friday night.
My Papa loved to sit on the porch to watch the rain.
My sister’s family enjoys a golf cart ride in the evening.
I make chocolate chip cookies when it snows.
Every night Keith gives Henry a special kiss before leaving his bedroom.
I say, “I love you,” and Henry hollers, “I love you more!”
Our family rituals are a mix of daily, weekly, and seasonal. I bet yours are too. Rituals don’t have to be frequent, though some are, and every good thing that happens doesn’t have to become one. The key is not to force it, but to honor it when it occurs. Our children may count on them without us – or them – even realizing it.
For instance, last year Keith and I decided to cancel our traditional Memorial Day cookout, when Henry voiced his sincere displeasure with that idea! On with the party. We didn’t know how much it had meant to him. Now that we do, we’ll maintain the tradition as long as it is still working, still providing that pleasure for all who attend.
Rituals give our lives a sense of security and a continuous thread of meaning and joy. They affect our emotions and even contribute to our family culture. Susan Stafford Kelly wrote in Our State magazine,
“…small moments add up in young minds, and lead to feelings that last a lifetime.”