March 25, 2010

What's Your Favorite Family Tradition?

I read a story in the New York Times a couple of days ago that really struck me. It was about a librarian dad who read to his daughter for more than 3,200 consecutive nights.

They called their tradition “the streak,” ending it only when she went off to college, where she earned outstanding grades and many accolades for her writing.

What a gift from her dad. Not just the books, of course. No doubt she was a better writer and student for all the exposure to language.

What really touched me was the commitment she and her dad had to each other. When they weren’t in the same city, he called to read to her. When she was in a drama production that ran to 11:45 at night, he saved ten minutes for a story, pulling her off the stage, sending the unequivocal message that family comes first.

This is what family is, I think—finding the thing about each other that only you do, something you love to do together, and not letting the world get in the way of it.

Donut WednesdayI wish I’d kept an unbroken daily reading streak like this going. Though I do read a lot to the kids and this year have logged more than 1,000 pages so far, what’s more likely to become the longest running streak in our family is something we call Donut Wednesday.

I don’t remember exactly when it started. We didn’t set out to make it a thing. But we’re on our third year  of it with no signs of slowing down.

It’s not a noble tradition. It won’t turn my kids into scholars. It’s not even healthy, really.

But I love it so.

I pick up the girls at school and say, “Do you know what day it is?”

Invariably, they do. “IT’S DONUT WEDNESDAY! IT’S DONUT WEDNESDAY!”

We get in the car and drive to the nearest bakery, which is one neighborhood over from ours. It’s an old-fashioned place, humid, scented with yeast and sugar, lined with long glass display cases.

The place reminds me a lot of the bakery my mom took us to when we were little, which has long since been replaced by a high-rise office tower.

The neighborhood bakery has the same scent, the same strange little marzipan vegetables in the display case. The only difference is they don’t give away salted breadsticks like the bakery I once knew, probably because of gluten sensitivities, low-carb diets, and other modern misfortunes.

Each week, the girls spend a good ten minutes each week deciding what they’ll have.

“Don’t touch the glass,” I remind them, completely in vain.

They put their hands on the case and ponder the benefits of the cream-filled Bismarck, the perfect simplicity of the glazed ring, the complexity of the apple fritter, the sheer bulk of the maple bar, the unspeakable evil that is sprinkles.

Sometimes, they venture beyond the donuts and consider the cookies, the brownies, the cupcakes, and even the meringue cups that look much better than they taste. They stop and ogle the wedding cakes, making me guess which one they’re going to get when they grow up.

It always surprises me how hard they think about this donut decision.

We do get them every Wednesday, after all. If one week’s choice disappoints, there’s always next week. But this is part of the charm of kids. These little things really do matter. The routine is not the routine. For them, savoring these little moments—making them matter—is the secret to happiness.

There was one Wednesday we did not go out for donuts, now that I think about it. That Wednesday, I foolishly scheduled an appointment elsewhere.

“Guess what today is?” I said when I picked them up.

“Donut Wednesday!” they said.

“Close,” I said. “It’s another D-word.”

They looked at me blankly.

“It’s Dentist Appointment Wednesday!” I said.

I thought this would be funny. Turns out, it wasn’t. Lucy suggested Double Donut Thursday as a replacement, and who was I to argue with that logic?

Ten years from now, when Lucy is in college, we will have had, by my calculations, nearly 700 donut Wednesdays, assuming we’ll still be able to work them around the kids’ after-school plays and sports practices and the like.

It’ll call for flexibility on my part. I do not doubt my kids’ commitment to the donut, though. Not for a second.

And I know that no matter what, the smell of yeast and sugar will transport me from my own childhood, through theirs, and onward. What a sweet, sweet ride.

For more adventures in parenting, check out Martha's Family Journal. Record and share your own family moments - start an easy family website today.

--Martha Brockenbrough

Martha is mom to Lucy and Alice, who are 9 and 6 years old. They live in the Pacific Northwest with daddy Adam and doggy Rosie.

Comments

Tristan

My favorite family pasttime is going to the Pacific coast for thanksgiving!

Jeanette Boggs

My favorite tradition is baking breakfast for my favorite neighbors on Christmas morning. We send either cinnamon rolls or muffins to their homes in pretty decorated containers. The fun part is knocking on their door and then running quickly back to our car and watching them smile when they find their surprise. :) My husband and daughter also enjoy a breakfast date every Friday...they've done this since she started pre-school at 15-months old and now she's 8. They're looking forward to continuing this through high school (and possibly college if she chooses to stay in our hometown!)

Barbara

We did about 2 years of Hot Chocolate Wednesdays in the morning on the way to school - and then I switched jobs and there was no time...I guess I will have to find a way to bring it back since you are right - it is VERY important!

Corrine

We do Sunday Night Movie Night. Every Sunday at 7 pm we make fresh popcorn, make a bed in front of the TV, and watch a movie. After the movie, my daughters and I camp out and my husband goes off to bed.

It's a great way to slow down and spend time together before another busy week starts.

Jennifer

We have game night every Saturday night. We have a healthy supper of tacos or pizza(ha, ha!) and then we play. It helps my boys, 7 and 4, to know that there are more games than video games. My two year old even enjoys participating!

Deborah Zombar

Dessert first Fridays!

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