Dear tuned-in parents,
December is here and I am feeling my usual inner conflict between loving the smell of pine trees and the sight of twinkly lights and my disdain for all the in-your-face sales. The festival of lights is definitely a time to celebrate together but it is also a time to go inward and reconnect with family.
We’ve been going deeper in our classes. Something in the air – and the darkness outside – makes me a little more emotional in groups. We’re taking extra deep breaths between songs and we’re sharing a little bit more deeply and authentically. We’ve been delving into exploring our feelings about family, our place in the family, the place of music in our family and memories and traditions.
We’ve come to grips with one important fact:
We are the grown-ups now.
I know you don’t want to hear that.
I still feel like a kid, too. But in the past it was up to someone else to continue traditions and family rituals. Now it’s our job.
Along with the responsibility of instigating and carrying through, we also have an opportunity here.
We can continue or create whatever traditions we feel like.
We can build on what worked In the past and nix what didn’t.
Easier said than done, I know. Sometimes those old habits emerge even if we want to shed them.
The first step is to start to be more conscious about the family rituals and traditions that have existed until now. In the process, let’s realize our own potential to inspire and spurinstigate new ones.
4 Ways to Evaluate Holiday Traditions
- Think back to a time when you felt *most connected* to your family.
What were you all doing?
Maybe you were playing a board game? Maybe you were sitting around talking? Maybe you were having dinner? Or making dinner? Maybe you were dancing? Or maybe you were singing a song?
When I think of moments that felt the most happy and free with my family they almost always involved music. We were singing in the car, singing while washing dishes, hanging a prayer together before a meal or dancing together.
So what were yours?
This is a really nice conversation to have with family members. Ask your siblings, cousins, parents. What were the times when they felt the family was most connected and happy together?
That’s a good start in figuring out which traditions you are going to continue or create.
- Think about moments that felt *least connected*.
We’ve all had a lot of those with our family. Spending time with our family can be so loaded. These are people who have seen us grow since we were babies and vice versa. It is almost impossible to break out of our childhood images. Right when we feel the most grown up is when our family can make us feel the most like a child.
- Think about moments where you watched other families enjoy a connected moment.
More often than not we idealize those moments but it doesn’t matter for this exercise. What matters is what we saw the family doing. What allowed them to come together? How are they engaging with each other?
- Think about moments with your nuclear family and your baby.
What are the moments you feel most connected? What are you doing? How are you engaging?
Once you’ve thought this through you might realize that there is a common thread. Most likely the connection moments happened when you put aside the to-do list; expectations and disappointments and were able to be fully present in the moment.
My point is:
There’s a way to manufacture these types of moments. We don’t need to wait for them to happen.
We can create them. Oftentimes, with music.
The reason that music lends itself so well to these types of moments is because it helps us get out of our heads and into our bodies. And more than that, it’s a way for us to communicate emotionally, not intellectually. So singing together is a shortcut to doing all the things we are talking about above: Feeling connected, happy, togetherness and present.
Before you go into your holiday celebration this year, take time to do these 4 exercises:
- When did you feel most connected with your extended family in the past?
- When did you feel least connected with your family?
- When watching another family who seemed connected, what were they doing?
- What were some moments you felt most connected to your nuclear family?
Once you move through these prompts, you might have some ideas about how to bring a new energy to your extended family this holiday.
But here’s the hard part: Because we tend to regress into our old ways and childhood selves it may be hard to bring new ideas to a group. Although I make my career out of it, I still found it really hard to pull out the guitar and ask everyone to sing a song before dinner last year.
That’s said, I plan to do it again. Because it was a moment that I remember. I remember looking around at everyone’s faces while we were singing. People were swaying, leaning on each other, and most of all, weren’t thinking.
Not to say that I didn’t get some objections. I did, and you can expect it, too. They might sound like this:
“But we’re hungry!”
“Here she comes with a new idea.”
“Let’s do it later”
“Can’t we all watch a movie together instead?”
Or any other cynical comments you can think of.
But our job is to create the traditions that we believe are good for our babies.
So we need to push through the resistance, so that when it is our baby’s turn to do it, they won’t be up against as much cynicism. For them, it will be second nature to come together effortlessly in a way that makes family truly feel like family.
That’s it you guys. We’re not the kids anymore. It’s time for us to be the grown ups.
Have you started a new tradition in your family? Comment below and share what it was and how it was received. We need all the inspiration we can to make way for new ideas with as few waves as possible.
Know a parent who’s ditching the traditional ways? Forward them this post so they know we’re all looking for rituals that feel right – for us.
Tell them to sign up here for more words of wisdom:
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