For TYMs: One simple way to build lasting family memories

When our three boys were very young, I read a wonderful, warm book about creating family traditions. I loved the concept, but felt overwhelmed by the elaborate preparation and expense involved in many of the ideas. I knew if we could do those things, we’d have some great memories (not to mention some great photos for scrapbooking). I also knew I didn’t have the energy, time or money to follow through week after week, month after month, or year after year. I finished the book feeling like an inspired failure.

Looking back now I can see that, in the midst of the mundane, our family accomplished the same thing! We didn’t set out to establish traditions or make memories. We were just having fun together. The memories happened on their own through little repeated moments I’ll call “tiny traditions.”

Family traditions are defined as “shared, repeated occasions that bind families together, creating memories and a deep affection for home.” Some are intricate and costly. But tiny traditions happen almost accidentally. Your family shares a moment you all enjoy. Then it happens again—and again. You all recognize how great the moment feels, and you want to repeat it. It happens again, this time on purpose. Voila! A tiny tradition is born.

Here are examples from our family.

ADH. Mention an “ADH” to any of my boys, and they’ll instantly know what it means—and they’ll smile at the memory. Those three initials may not mean a thing to others, but to our family they mean After Dinner Hug. Somehow, in the crazy busy days of their childhood, our sons began giving an “after-dinner-hug” to the cook—usually me, but occasionally to their dad or grandma—before they left the table. It was a sweet little thank-you that made cooking worthwhile for this “I-hate-to-cook” mom! The after-dinner-hug got shortened to ADH, a wonderful warm tiny tradition that binds us. Now, our granddaughters give ADHs after dinner. The tradition continues!

Keeping you. On many mornings before school time, Jim would stretch in his chair and say, “Well, I need to get to work.” That was the boys’ cue to pile on him and say, “We’re keeping you!” A few sweet minutes of tickling and laughing ensued as Jim “tried” to get out from under three wiggly sons—a fun start to the day. I guarantee our three grown sons remember well what “keeping you” means, another tiny tradition that binds us.

Mommy kiss, Mommy kiss, Mommy kiss. When our sons hit about age six, suddenly kisses from Mom weren’t cool. They’d scrub a hand over their cheek to wipe off a kiss. One day, I grabbed a passing boy, kissed him on the cheek and held his squirming arms while I said, “Mommy kiss, Mommy kiss, Mommy kiss. Now it’s permanent!” He tried to rub off my kiss, but I said, “Nope, you can’t do it.” We laughed together, not knowing another tiny tradition had begun. Twenty-some years later, there’ve been lots of “Mommy kisses” and now our granddaughters giggle at “Grandma kiss, Grandma kiss, Grandma kiss!” Any kiss becomes permanent when you know the magic words.

Tiny traditions don’t cost a thing and they happen in a flash. But they create memories that last forever. Your kids will smile at the mention of them long after childhood is gone, instantly remembering the happy warmth of home.

Your children may continue those tiny traditions with their own kids and grandkids, or they may follow the pattern by creating their own tiny traditions in their families. Either way, memories will be made that tie a family together with unbreakable bonds.

“Like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.” Do you have tiny traditions that will keep your family’s roots strong in years to come? What are they?

3 Comments on “For TYMs: One simple way to build lasting family memories

  1. My husband has this little tickle he does to my boys ears, but before he does it he yells in a big monster voice, “here comes the ear monster!” The boys just run and giggle and it turns into this big game of almost cat and mouse! Or how 2 years ago when we were exhausted from our week of work, we would just veg out and put a movie in for the kids every Friday night, I turned into family movie night and each boy gets his turn to pick the movie, we also started a concession stand where boys can buy a snack from it with their allowance $, if they choose.

    • Great examples, Jenelle! Your boys will always remember movie night, and the “ear monster.” Those seem like silly little things, but are the mortar that bonds a family.

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