Parent Hacks is part of the Mother Talk Blog Book Tour for Everyday Traditions: Simple Family Rituals for Connection and Comfort, by Nava Atlas.
When Andi Buchanan (one of the founders of Mother Talk and accomplished parenting author in her own right) emailed me about this book thinking it might be a good fit, I was immediately intrigued. Ritual is something I've been drawn to more and more as my children grow. I feel a pull toward repetition and tradition and saying to my kids, "we do this every week/season/year!" But, despite my roots in two highly ritualized cultures (my father's from India and my mother is Jewish), my upbringing, and our family life, is relatively secular.
The one religious ritual we observe is Shabbat dinner on Friday night, the Jewish sabbath. We set the table nicely, light candles, drink wine (Manischewitz is too wine!), and eat challah. We even say the blessings in Hebrew. I didn't grow up with this — in fact, I didn't even know what Shabbat was until I met Rael. And yet, despite my secular leanings, I love to say those blessings every Friday, and the kids' eyes sparkle in the candlelight as if it were something new and magical every time.
While we happen to have found a religious ritual that feels comfortable despite our relative un-religious-ness, not everyone feels the same way. Everyday Traditions shows that ritual doesn't have to have its basis in religion at all. Anything can become a meaningful family ritual, whether it's a simple marking of the seasons with special foods and decorations, or the yearly reading of a book, or the celebration of a milestone or occasion. The fact is, most of us already have some measure of tradition in our lives (trick-or-treating, Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas trees have annual places in many Americans' lives, after all); what this book suggests is that ritual has a more important place in our lives than the once-a-year extravaganza.
What's more, "tradition" needn't be "traditional" or even serious. One family mentioned in Nava's book observes "Pancake Thursday," in which the hardest day of school each week gets off to a good start with a breakfast of warm flapjacks.
Lest you think this is a woo-woo, crystals-and-chanting sort of book, it's nothing of the sort. Nava lays out simple, practical ideas for family rituals of all kinds. How to make mealtimes special. Baking bread together. Reading and playing games as a family (and one I grew up with, the big jigsaw puzzle on the dining room table). Simple ways to observe the change of seasons. All stuff within reach of any family that wants to bring a some intention to the time they spend together.
There's nothing here that isn't common sense, and yet I found the book to be a welcome reminder to slow down and enjoy the time with my kids. That oft-repeated lament — "it all goes so quickly and pretty soon they're packing up for college" — is starting to dawn on me now that my oldest has started elementary school.