Jen Hatmaker's Tips for Creating Traditions with Your Kids

The best-selling author says creating simple family traditions can foster a lifetime of good memories for your kids.

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Jen Hatmaker, with her kids Remy and Ben

Taken from Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker. Copyright © 2017 by Jen Hatmaker. Used by permission of ThomasNelson.

Mamas, the traditions and experiences we provide during the Family Years are paving a road our kids can always return to, one that always points home. There is something about a recurring shared memory; the sum becomes greater than the parts.

Childhood is such a wonky, weird season. Do you remember the fears and confusion and insecurities we harbored, our own little private pile of worries? Kids are amazingly resilient and handle change better than we give them credit for, but there is something to be said for a given, some constant, an element of childhood that delivers over and over with predictability and joy. While their bodies and minds and friends and classes are a swirling vortex of volatility, while they are constantly required to adjust and shift and recalibrate and flex, providing a familiar touchpoint week after week or year after year is an anchor that keeps them grounded and a buffer against the scary winds of change. It says to them: Yes, everything is fluctuating, but you can count on this thing we do, this place we go, this meal we share, this memory we make.

Read More: Jen Hatmaker's Tips for Positive Parenting

None of this needs to be expensive or fancy. Nor does it have to be incredibly comprehensive. I heard a speaker at a Christmas brunch once give a talk on traditions, and hand to God, she described at least fifty traditions she provided for her children: daily lunch notes with hand-drawn cartoons, thirty Birthday Month activities, leaving surprises under the lining of their trash cans to discover upon weekly removal, the What We Learned Today journal, family time capsules, the weekly thankful box. I don’t think there was one day of the year that didn’t involve some meaningful moment. I basically did a slow slide out of my chair onto the ground, because LADY PLEASE, I AM JUST TRYING NOT TO MAKE MAC AND CHEESE FOUR NIGHTS A WEEK.

Traditions can be simple. Heck, my girlfriend’s grown kids never stop talking about Friday Puzzle Night. It can be anything: Saturday pancakes and bacon, that rental house in Destin, Monopoly Monday, cutting down a Christmas tree together, lake days, sledding down that one hill every year, family camp, Grandma’s house, summer road trips, popcorn and movie night, backyard picnics. Whether it is a place you return to, a tradition you create, or a story you rewrite over and over together, miraculously, the fighting and whining and eye-rolling that often accompany that custom will one day recede and what emerges is a rock-solid bank of memories your family will share forever. Never fear, Mamas, the energy you are logging toward any tradition will not return void. You are building something special, and your kids will not forget.

I know I didn’t. I remembered.

And then one day, say, twenty-three years after your special place is gone, one of your grown kids might call your family together on your back porch because she wants to write about this tradition and mine everyone’s memories, and your husband will walk out with his outdated camcorder to record the conversation that is supposed to last around thirty minutes but goes on for three hours, because once you start down the rabbit hole of VW vans and haunted basements and programs and Chicken Foot, your laughter carries you from one memory to the next, and that grown daughter will finally tell her sister to just open another bottle of wine because, happily, you are all going to be there for quite a while. 

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