My parents and I have always been like the Three Musketeers. When I lived at home, we’d sit down to dinner every single night—no TV or cell phones, though my dad would leave the soccer game on in the living room and spring from his chair to stand at the edge of the kitchen to catch a good play. (Or if he heard the signature “Gooaaaallllll!” roaring from the announcer.)
We took family vacations regularly and rarely experienced big events separately. For instance, whenever I had a performance at school, my parents always made sure that one of them was there. If they had to, they’d miss work to support me during one of my silly shows.
My father passed away almost two years ago, but my mom and I still try to eat dinner together and regularly have shopping dates. When my grandma was alive, we also had certain rituals like playing a childhood Russian talking game while we strolled along the streets of New York City. When my parents and I made our annual summer visit to see her and my other close family in NYC, we’d always attend a Broadway show and at least one museum.
Big or small, family rituals are important. These and other family rituals make up some of my most cherished memories with my loved ones.
Productivity coach Laura Stack, MBA, shared several of her family traditions with me, which I found to be incredibly inspiring and fun! And I think you will, too. Here are six of Stack’s family rituals.
- Dive in to daily dinners. Stack and her family also have dinner together every day. Everyone either finishes up their activities before or after dinner. According to Stack, “We hold hands around the table and pray before anyone can eat. Then we chat about our days, talking about things important and not so important. But the main point is we’re together, and we can all count on this special time.”
- Spend Sundays together. Stack’s parents originated the ritual of spending each Sunday together as a family. Said Stack: “My two brothers and I rotated taking turns to select the activity. We would bowl, go to a movie, eat at a restaurant, or visit a museum.” Today, she continues the ritual with her own family. “Our Sundays consist of visits to Chuck E. Cheese, playtime in the park, and Chutes N Ladders on the floor. Our activities aren’t always glamorous, but we’re creating memories nonetheless.”
- Devote one day per month to each family member. Stack enjoys doing this with each of her kids. It involves doing activities that are meaningful and memorable for them. For instance, she said: “When I mark out a ‘Johnny’ day, we might go to the pool, have a special lunch at his favorite restaurant and play at the park.”
- Set aside Saturdays for date day. Every Saturday, Stack and her husband have date night, while her mother-in-law watches the kids. “John and I trade off who plans the evening’s activities. We’ll get together with friends or go out alone to putt-putt golf, a dance club or a nice restaurant.” They also don’t talk about the kids or house issues. Instead, they focus on “personal topics including our marriage, life plans and goals for the future.”
- Make birthdays big. In my family, having a birthday is a big deal. My parents always made birthdays special, fun and memorable. I’d get so excited about my b-day that I’d start counting down the day many months beforehand. (As a child, the days of course felt like they’d never ever come.) I’d wake up to my pretty presents on a chair or table next to my bed. When I was little, we’d go to Toys R Us so I could pick out my birthday-themed paper plates, utensils and table cloth. As I got older, I got to choose the restaurant we’d go to.In Stack’s family birthdays also are special. “In our house, when it’s your birthday, you get to be the king or queen for a day.” The birthday gal or guy gets to do whatever they want—even if that means skipping school. “You can sleep in, eat out, go boating on a lake in the mountains, go to Six Flags, hang out at Chuck E Cheese, or do anything your child’s heart desires.” Afterward, everyone gets together for gifts and cake.
- Create rituals anywhere. Stack loves to spend individual time with her daughter (they’re outnumbered by Stack’s husband and two sons). Their special time, which they mark by chanting together in a singsong voice, “Meagan and Mommy time…Meagan and Mommy time,” might include shopping, manicures or Girl Scout meetings, which Stack leads.Stack also takes her daughter with her whenever she’s traveling on business or leaves her house to write. For instance, during “a three-day writing retreat at an AmeriSuites in Denver…John dropped by with the kids for a quick hug and kiss and a piece of chocolate. The boys jumped on the bed for five minutes, then the males left and Meagan stayed here. She’s now reading quietly in the easy chair next to my desk. I’ll take a break and drive her to school in the morning. We’re not talking, but we’re together and smile at each other occasionally. This time with her serves to balance both of our lives better—even though we are doing separate activities, at least we’re together.”
What are some of your family rituals? What rituals did you love as a child? Which one of Stack’s rituals would you like to try?