Rituals, both big and little, create a lasting legacy.
A few years ago, we made a conscious decision to make the beginning of July the time of year that our family gathers together. Though we also convene for other holidays, weddings or important milestones, this summer celebration comes without added responsibilities—it allows us simply to enjoy each other’s company. We realize that it won’t happen every year, but our hope is that as the years go by, our children and grandchildren will be drawn to us and one another by the rituals we are creating.
Most of the rituals are simple: Saturday trips to the farmer’s market. Donut Friday. Eating dinner outside. Watching the sunset together. Some are more elaborate, like our annual 4th of July party: invitations to everyone’s friends in the area, a giant flag hung from our balcony and fireworks over the lake. But each of them is a way to create our identity as a family. They mark the things we value (yes, donuts can be a family value!) and tie us to one another.
Another power of ritual is this: the people we’ve shared a ritual with in the past will be with us each time we repeat that ritual, even if they aren’t there physically.
When I was young and my grandmother and I walked hand in hand, she had a funny little saying. If we had to drop hands for an obstacle or another pedestrian, when we rejoined our hands she always smiled down at me and said, “Bread and butter.” I was too timid of a child to ask her why she said this, but I’ve since read that the phrase is a sort of superstition: it’s supposed to counteract any bad luck caused by letting something come between you. I didn’t understand it at the time, yet any time I am walking hand in hand with someone and we have to let go of one another, I think of my grandmother. I don’t even need to repeat the ritual for it to have the power to bring her smile to mind.
As you create small rituals and traditions with your grandchildren, you are creating a legacy that will last long after you are gone. Most rituals don’t cost a penny and don’t take any preparations: all you need are intention and repetition. It can be as simple as the way you say hello or goodbye. It can be a song you sing every morning or a hug you give every night. It can be a walk after dinner or the annual planting of a garden. No matter what it is, the more you repeat it, the more meaningful it will become to your grandchildren. And as they repeat that ritual in the future, they’ll think of you and the legacy of love you’ve left them.
Do you have a ritual you share with your grandchildren? Please share it in the comments!