Staying Sane: Developing Traditions

I’ve been writing about Chocolate Tuesdays in my daily journals and I also recently wrote about a rainy weekend when I took the kids out for ice-cream. I received a request from a fellow Mama to spend some time writing on this subject and also getting feedback from our Mama In Motion community on traditions that they do with their families, no matter how big or how small. This really does help keep sanity. It helps to promote stability and respect and positions the family as a unit, versus individuals “at odds” with one another. And this is perfect timing….

Some of our day-to-day traditions:

  • I do “hugs and kisses in the morning” each and every morning with each of the kids. When Big Bro and Red were little babies, I used to make a song of it; but now at least its a round of hugs and kisses for each child and a big “good morning” for each of them.
  • I also play a “love” game with the kids – I try to do daily with Big Bro and REd, and would like to start it with the Twins now too since their old enough to get it. It goes like this: Me: “Did I tell you yet today how much I love you?!?!?”. Kid: “No” (or sometimes they say yes mommy…”. Me: “I love you so much that I am going to [kiss your ear], [pull your toe], [squeeze your nose], [mess up your hair], [tickle your belly] etc. etc. etc. And then as I do these things I say “THAT’s how much I love you, I love you, I love you so much…..”. It really is fun, because they know the game but don’t know how I’m going to express my love, whether its picking them up and spinning around, or chasing them, etc. They also do it back to me from time to time.
  • Each day and in relation to school/pre-school, I ask each kid to make sure that they 1) learn something new today; 2) exercise their bodies; and 3) laugh really hard about something. Then at the end of the day I ask them questions about what they did today to learn something new, exercise, and tell me a funny thing that made them laugh.
  • Chocolate Tuesdays – I found Nutella as another breakfast option that is really easy to put on bagels, toast, tortillas, etc. A good source of protein since it is made of hazelnut – and the kids love it because it really does taste like chocolately goodness. The problem was that they wanted it all the time. So we asked them to pick only ONE morning to have it – that day was a Tuesday so of course Big Bro suggested Tuesdays. So the tradition was borne.
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  • Movie Fridays – as a family we are a bit restrictive on the kids watching TV. Big Bro is the kind of kid that if he watches something in the day he will waste the day away (like me). So we have one night devoted to movies and popcorn: Friday nights. We love it as a family. Even the Twins now are getting into the popcorn even if they don’t have the attention span for the whole movie. I have lots of pictures of the four of them lined up on the couch eating popcorn and mesmerized by the movie – although this is fleeting and Red and the Twins tend to get bored and move on to other activities.
  • Saturday AM pancakes
  • Sunday AM waffles
  • Bathtime/ showertime is big in our house. We may not be able to do it as frequently as we would like, but all of the kids together is too much fun. The four kids used to bathe together in the one big HUGE tub in our room; now Big Bro takes a shower while the other 3 take a bath together. They LOVE it.
  • If the kids eat “two colors” at dinner, they get chocolate milk afterwards. I tell them that they have to listen to their body to know if they are full or not. I don’t force them to eat. But they must at least try two colors of food to get the milk at the other end.
  • Bigger traditions:

  • Christmas Eve: We make home-made pasta together. This is something my grandmother used to do whenever we would visit her, but I wanted to make it a tradition on Christmas eve. The thought is that we can make homemade linquinine or other shapes, and then diversify year by year with different sauces. It is hard work and takes time (even with a Kitchenaide mixer), but my thought is that as the kids get older, they will take over and with four of them they will be able to work together to get the job done faster, or at least switch off when they get tired.
  • Christmas eve: we also bake Chocolate Chip cookies during the day for Santa. We leave these out at night along with a cup of milk and carrots for the reindeer. We take baths and get into our chistmas pajamas, take pictures by the tree, and I have each of the kids draw a picture for Santa. It is the cutest thing to see each of them in their PJs busy at work, creating a special picture for Santa. In years past we’ve had pictures of airplanes, choo-choo trains, circles, and scribbles. I think it will be wonderful for them to have when they get older… so they get to see what meant so much to them when they were little and how they gifted their creativity to Santa each and every year while they believed.
  • Each year right before 9/11, we go to the store and buy gifts for the firefighters. We wrap them up and then on the day of 9/11 we visit the firestation and give them their gifts. Last year we got a crazy tour of the truck, they got to go inside the truck, and we all got a tour of the fire-house.
  • For Easter, the easter bunny not only gives them candy, but also TOOTHBRUSHES. The kids absolutely love getting them in their baskets.
  • We also do TOOTHBRUSHES in stocking stuffers at christmas time.
  • Things I’m thinking of:

  • With four kids, I’m thinking of having a poliana at Christmastime that the kids can do with each other.
  • Also with so many kids, I’m thinking of toning down Christmas (to one gift each) and spending the real celebration on their birthdays – which are more meaningful to me. The thought of celebrating a person’s life…. the fact that they are who they are…. and celebrating their uniqueness and what they mean to you, seems so much more worthy in my mind than the pile of presents at Christmastime for EACH child….
  • What are some of YOUR traditions? Big or small — share them all!!!!


    1. I’ve been meaning to write but I have so many traditions that i didn’t know where to start. One of my favorites is “____’s Special Day”. At around the half bday mark, I surprise one of my kids with their special day. When they come home from school, the table is decorated in a theme they like (spongebob, barbie, etc.). I always do it on a Friday so they can stay up late with just Mom and Dad. I make their fav dinner, a special snack and they can pick a game or movie to watch with us. With 4 kids, it’s challenging to find one on one time. My kids love this!

    2. Oh yay! Thanks for doing this! I love all of these ideas, but the one that I want to start doing right now is the one where you ask each kid to 1) learn something new today; 2) exercise their bodies; and 3) laugh really hard about something. I feel like our conversations about the day fall flat because all I get in response to “what did you do today?” is “I don’t know, I don’t remember.” I love this idea, thank you Mama K!

      On our end, most of our “traditions” are bigger ones, so it is nice to think about ways to incorporate tradition on a daily or weekly basis. I suppose we do daily/weekly things – like I always sing a particular song when it’s time for tubby (I made it up) or changing diapers (ditto). We like to go out for breakfast on the weekend, that’s one thing we do pretty regularly. And there’s a restaurant nearby here where kids eat free on Tuesdays, so going there is quickly becoming a tradition, too (more due to my lack of dinner planning than the quality of the restaurant!).

      On a bigger-scale, we have started a tradition of doing a special parent/kid weekend each year. We have 2 kids, so we alternate every year which kid we have – this year it was my son and I, next year it will be my son and his dad together, and me and my daughter. Camping or a city weekend, whatever you want to plan together, 1:1. It was really fun this year and we are looking forward to years to come as the kids get more and more involved in shaping the ideas and plans.

      For the holidays, a couple years ago we started an advent calendar, where each day is a little envelope and inside is a slip of paper with an activity on it to do that day as a family. This is REALLY fun to do during December, although it takes a lot of planning at the end of November to pull it off. Some activities are bigger, like getting a tree, or baking cookies for the neighbors, or making an ornament for your teacher, and obviously have to be planned so you have time to do it. Others are small but special things like having a backwards dinner (dessert first), or reading a story by candlelight, having a picnic by the tree, paining toenails green and red, etc. Despite the work that this involves on the front end, we have enjoyed doing it so much – it helps to slow the season down and we appreciate and remember these moments.

      I’d like to start a special birthday tradition with my kids – someone gave me a “birthday book” for each kid that has an interview page and age-appropriate journal questions so you can fill that in each year and it becomes a collection of entries to save. I like this idea, I hope I can remember to set aside the time and do it.

      What about other people? Let’s hear about the special things you do, big and small, with your kids!

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