Babying the Buddha columnist invited friends to share their favorite family rituals.
Rituals, the touchstones of our lives, bring comfort, security, tradition, sacredness and consistency. They bond us to others, they bless us, and they connect us to a higher power. Some are very elaborate and performed with precise accuracy. Others are very simple and sweet, like a warm cup of tea in the morning. Although many rituals are established and passed down through generations, many emerge from the essence of our lives and are extremely unique and individual.
Parenting is made up of daily rituals, stories before bed and hugs and kisses in the morning. But the sweetest are the ones that creep up on you slowly, that you aren’t even aware are happening, until one day, you take a look at your life and realize that this small action has, in fact, become a ritual. It is these that I went on a quest to find and share. Following are the results of my search. Many thanks to those who have shared.
Starting the day
Just before my second son was born, a smart friend told me that the most important thing a parent could do to impact a child’s life would be to greet them each morning with a big smile and hug. Each day since Max was a tiny baby I’d start his day with a huge smile and “It’s so good to see you!” This little exchange has been the best part of my day for six years. What a wonderful way to grow a person up, giving him a pool of energetic love to step into from each night’s sleep. Once Max was able to talk he would counter with “It’s good to see you, too.” Sigh, “It’s going to be a wonderful day.”
— Polly Mottonen
Our girls are 12 and 14, and we still have this ritual which I cherish. When the girls wake up in the morning, they come down into our bed and snuggle for about 10-20 minutes. My 14-year-old gets up real early to go to school and does this after getting herself ready, right before she leaves for the bus. It’s a very quiet time. My other daughter gets up about half an hour later and comes down before she gets ready. I only get to snuggle her for about 5 minutes because I need to get ready, but my husband gets the whole 20 minutes.
— Sandy Harty
Every morning Stephen greets Eve as she wakes up with the song. “Good morning good morning, you slept the whole night through, good morning good morning to you.” Then he teaches her how to stretch her arms high above her head before taking her out of her crib and ringing a small set of wind chimes while exclaiming “Yay! Evie’s awake.” It’s pretty sweet, and she is all smiles.
— Tracey Thompson
One ritual we used to have was when I dropped my daughter off at daycare. She went to a neighbor woman’s house with a big window in front. My daughter, who was then about 3, would stand at the window and as I walked away I would turn around and in sign language we would both sign “I love you,” by using our pinky fingers as the i, cross our hearts with both arms for love and point to one another for you. It always left a smile on my face as I headed off to work.
— Sandy Harty
I noticed a little ritual just the other day. I teach in Provo and Sam and Lily and I drive down four times a week. When we get to Provo and we’re waiting for the babysitter to show up, Sam always asks us to “call Steve.” Steve is my husband and Sam’s dad. He usually calls him dad or daddy. But “calling Steve” is apparently part of the ritual of starting the work day.
— Kerry Spencer
“Push the button”—every night Jim makes me a latte but I am not allowed to turn the machine on (i.e., push the button). The boys delight in pushing the button as their way of helping to make a treat for mom. Sometimes when I look a little frazzled Andrew will say “I know what you need, a latte” and then he will go “push the button.”
— Cindie Kazmer
For many years there were three elements in the nightly ritual of putting my daughter Diandra to bed: lighting of a candle, lying in bed beside her, and the telling of a story. All three were requisite (two out of three wouldn’t cut it). The stories, of course, were the challenge in the whole affair because on any given night I never knew what I might come up with. A special part of the routine was sneaking back into Diandra’s room a half hour later to blow out the candle. I would give my sleepy girl a final good night kiss, sometimes getting a faded “good night Dad” back.
Diandra is now 15. The bedtime ritual departed as inevitable changes took place in the preteen years. But maybe, and I sure hope so, the lingering connection between us is alive and well.
— Tom Ryan
In addition to a bath, “sories” (Cruise’s word for stories) and saying goodnight to the pets, Mike wraps Cruise up in a blanket just before we tuck him in bed and steps outside for a moment to look at the night sky.
— DeAnn Tilton
Sonia’s favorite ritual is the bedtime story. She has never gone to bed without being read to! So that is 10 years of bedtime reading, or almost 4,000 nights of reading. I love it as well; we have really covered the classics, from “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Secret Garden,” to “Harry Potter.” We have read hundreds of great books together.
— Willamarie Huelskamp
I didn’t think we had developed rituals yet, but I realized last night that we had. Whoever wrapped Talley up for bedtime would sort of “present” her to the other one. At first it was sort of an unspoken, “look at how beautiful she is” gesture, then it became the goodnight kiss.
When I was growing up, it was the bedtime story. My dad got home much later than all the other dads. He was away a lot, and not exactly a diaper-changer, but he always read us a bedtime story. Jack and I would always fight for the privilege of having the story read in our own bed.
— Sarah Souther
I’m not really sure how this started but from the time that Aria was a tiny baby, we would swaddle her after a bath and comment to each other “oh look at my beautiful baby.” We have a frog towel with the little hood and face on it. As she grew, we would say, “oh look at my beautiful froggie baby.” Now, as she gets wrapped up in her towel, Aria will announce, “Go show Daddy the froggie baby.” She curls up in my arms all swaddled with this silly frog head and smiles as we talk about our “beautiful froggie baby” and sometimes, she will embellish the act with a pretend baby cry.
— Kindra Fehr
Towel hugs — After bath each night the boys come in wrapped in towels for their towel hug from mom. They love these brief but big hugs.
— Cindie Kazmer
I love you:
As silly as it is, John and I had started this little ritual which has been passed down to Aria. One of us will say, “I love you.”
To which the other replies, “I love you more.” Countered with “I love you most.” Finally, “I love you to infiniby [if Aria’s saying it] and BEYOND!” Whoever gets to “infinity and beyond” first is the winner and the other will say, “Oh you win!” with a big hug.
“At the end of stories when I put Pepichek to sleep, we hug each other and say to each other:
I love you so much
I love you all day and all night
And all the weeks
And all the months
And all the years
I will always love you
For your whole life.
Pepichek even assures me that he will love me even when I’m dead.
My husband Mike had this ritual as a child. His dad would squeeze his hand three times for “I love you” then Mike would squeeze back four times for “I love you, too.” This has continued on into our own relationship to which we reply to the three initial squeezes with a lot of squeezes back for “I love you to infinity.”
“One ritual that I remember from my childhood is going to the public library with my Mom. We would go every Friday, going through all the stacks of books, and pick out several titles to read during the coming week. After we left the library, my Mom would take us to lunch. It was usually at McDonalds, because I loved their hamburgers (and my parents didn’t have a lot of money). But I remember it as being a wonderful treat that my Mom and I shared together, just the two of us, every week.
— Norman Dixon
Homemade pizza and movie night. Every couple of weeks we make pizza together as a family. The kids love rolling out the dough and making their own pizza. After dinner we watch a movie together. It makes for a fun relaxing evening.
— Cindie Kazmer
It was a ritual on Sundays to go to my grandparents in Alpine where all my cousins and aunts and uncles would gather and have a pot luck. In the summer, we would make homemade ice cream on an old hand-cranked ice cream maker and make homemade root beer. All the kids would play active kids’ games like Red Rover, Red Rover.
— Bevan Chipman
Weather and the seasons:
When my brothers and I were in elementary school and would walk home on a rainy day, my mom would always have hot cocoa and popcorn waiting for us. I still always drink hot tea (sometimes hot cocoa) on rainy days. It makes me feel cozy and content, like it probably did back then.
— Carmela Wolf
My little brother and I used to cry because we were so frightened of the frequent, rather fierce thunderstorms during the summer in Maryland. Our mother acted very surprised and told us that she just loved thunderstorms because they were so pretty. Then she set things up so we could watch the “show.” She had us get some pillows from the beds and lay down facing the big window in the living room. If there was time, she’d get us some snacks. Then the three of us would “ooh” and “aah” as if we were watching fireworks. I still try to take some time to watch the lightning whenever I can.
— Sarah Souther
As my children grew older, solstice and equinox celebrations become pro bono holidays. Autumn equinox was celebrated in the Uintahs, spring in the red rocks of Snow Canyon, and during the hot long day of summer solstice, we danced nearly all night near the Newspaper Rock “menagerie” in Canyonlands. Winter was indoors nearer home in a Big Cottonwood canyon lodge. As the adults’ drum circle learned songs of many nations to sing during the “Long Dance” (a native American tradition of honoring the seasons changes and a distinct blessings), the children had their own two-and-a-half-foot-diameter drum made from an elk with its little tail intact on the edge. Many of those children in the group, now grown, have requested a similar venue from which to teach their own progeny. This year we resurrected the Long Dance in September and the full circle continues.
— Lin Ostler
My older son and I have started what I hope will be a lifelong ritual.
After little brother falls asleep, Miles sets up the chessboard and I prepare the tea in the cat-shaped teapot from Aunt Greta. As the rooks and bishops fly, we find ourselves discussing all the important issues of the day. I was surprised to find my seven-year-old eager to discuss God, planets, war and cigarettes (anything involving smoke and mirrors). I think this ritual will be important to us throughout our lives.
— Polly Mottonen
My grand-daughter, Sadie, came home last night after being away at school. It was wonderful to have our family together. She and I have over the years shared a small quarter-size plastic toy frying pan containing two fried eggs. It was just a small thing that could have easily been lost. We played with it and kept it safely in my sewing box. We always talked about the pan and “us two fried eggs.” As I wrote to her while she was away at school, I always reminded her that her pan was safe. When she returned a grown up, I gave her a little box containing a little chewed up handle frying pan. It meant the world to her. It proved to me that the littlest things can be so important.
— Renée Page
We have one wall in our kitchen that every so often we mark the date and the height of our children and grandchildren. As they grow, it’s been marked with lines all the way up. The kitchen has been painted numerous times but never that portion of the wall. It remains a visual reminder of how far we’ve come.
— Diane Fehr
While exploring and uncovering a variety of rituals, I’ve realized that these little acts are the very essence of our memories. It takes just a little time to see that ritual appears in our lives in some of the strangest places and in the smallest ways. u
Kindra Fehr is an artist and mom to toddler Aria Hancock. She co-instructs the Salt Lake Art Center’s KidsmART program.