My favorite memories from childhood almost always involve some beloved ritual or tradition. As a slightly anxious, non-thrill-seeking child, the types of experiences that stirred me were ones that, while perhaps sprinkled with a bit of magic and mystery, were firmly cloaked in comfort and security. Things that made me feel safe, things that I could count on.
I loved all our traditions- going to the same beach in Iowa every summer; (yes, there are beaches in Iowa. Lake Okoboji- look it up.) going shopping for the first-day-of-school outfit; spending the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day with my cousins; having a 4th of July Parade. These predictable events were exciting enough to thrill me, and as an adult, I’ve incorporated as many of my own childhood traditions and rituals as possible.
Some of these events are decidedly not “special occasions,” and in fact, one of my favorite family rituals happens nearly every night.
Book Club With My Daughters
My youngest child is two years old, and most parents agree that having a bedtime routine for toddlers is in everyone’s best interest. Our routine consists of going potty, putting on pajamas, reading several stories, and then rocking while singing lullabies. Sophie is at a delightful age for story reading- she has her favorite books and has begun to recite along with me, occasionally. She frequently asks to read the book a second time “by herself.”
My favorite book to read with her is Goodnight, My Angel by Billy Joel. There is a page of the book that is filled with butterflies, and the illustration shows a little girl with her arms outstretched, trying to catch them. Sophie always reaches her arms out wide, spreading her fingers, trying to catch them, too. It makes my heart hurt. In a good way.
My oldest daughter has reached an age where we have begun to recreate one of my favorite childhood experiences. One of my absolute favorite memories from childhood is listening to my mom read aloud from classic chapter books. My mom read us books such as Heidi, Black Beauty, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever- I take this stuff seriously, folks, and I’m not going to read just any crappy kids’ book. This is not the time for the latest Disney Fairy adventure- “Book Club” is reserved for only the best books. We began our first one this fall- The Secret Garden, one of my all-time favorites.
When we reached the chapter where Mary discovered the garden for the first time, Izzy gasped in excitement and hid under the covers squealing. As parents we all hope our children react with enthusiasm to the things we expect will delight them, and so often they let us down with bored, anticlimactic shrugs. This was exactly what I’d hoped for- the book was just as exhilarating for my daughter as it had been for me. We would forever share the sense of magic the classic book contained, and this time- I got to experience it from the perspective of mother. (Speaking of books, did you know ours came out on Monday? You can buy a copy of The HerStories Project right here!)
Part II- Holiday Traditions as a Parent- Coming Next Week
As you might imagine, my holiday traditions as a child were epic. I have always been a memory-making, nostalgia-junkie memoirist, (really, it’s shocking that I’m not a scrapbooker. I’m sure I would be, were it not for my shocking ineptitude at crafts.) and capturing Christmas spirit has always been my favorite. I know many people dread the over-scheduled, materialistic, family-tension-filled holiday season, but for me, the chaos, stress, and potential for disaster is overshadowed by the unbridled mirth I experience from November through December 26th.
My parents did an amazing job making our holidays magical; it has been so rewarding to me to try to integrate some of those precious traditions into my own family, watching them unfold from an entirely different vantage point- as the mother to two little girls.
This post is a two-parter; stay tuned for next week’s sentence and the conclusion of my reflections on family rituals and traditions- holiday style! Here’s a little teaser photo:
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post.
This week’s sentence was: “One of my favorite childhood memories is…”
Next week’s sentence is: “This holiday season I will… OR My favorite Christmas tradition is…”
(And if you missed our big announcement on Monday, you can get all the info you need to know about The HerStories Project book launch here!)
Janine at Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic
Kristi at Finding Ninee
Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine?
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Love how you led us into next week and now can’t wait to see part 2. And I too love reading before bed to my girls now nightly!! 🙂
Thanks Janine! I love writing about holiday stuff- next week will be fun!
You are brilliant and amazing and I want to take my post down now, or make it different to explain why my childhood memories are so much different from my son’s. I guess there is next week. I loved this. A lot.
Seriously? Here’s the truth- I had written all this holiday stuff in this post, then saw next week’s theme, and decided to split it in half. So I worried it was kind of lame. So thank you! Off to read yours now! xo
“My heart hurt in a good way” is so sweet and I totally know how that feels. Love it when I see parents really get into parenthood. And yes you and your brother were too cute! Tall too!
Thanks Kenya! We are still tall- I’m 5’11 and he’s 6’5! 🙂
Stephanie, I love your “book club” each night with the girls! (Never thought of calling it that…..) You’re doing a marvelous job at gifting your love of reading, language, and the fine arts to Izzy and Sophie. Zach, in 6th grade, was still “sitting in” on his dad’s read-aloud time with Anne.
Thank you so much Nancy- that means a lot to me! I can’t wait to pick our next book…
Yes, you and your brother were cute as hell. I feel the need to find pictures of my childhood now!
Reading “chapter books” was one of my favorite things to do with my second graders. Because of Winn-Dixie is one of my all time favorites to read to kids. Lots of gasping and “don’t stop reading now”-ing. I would show them the movie afterward and they would be outraged that the movie did not match their visualizations.
I love that, Jean! OK, you’ve inspired me- I’ve never read that book and now I have to. I bet Izzy would feel the same way if she watched the Secret Garden movie- no way those movies can top the books that inspired them.
So beautiful, and I love the photo. We are just at the beginning of our family rituals. Reading is one of them for us, too. I wonder how Henry will influence them in future years.
Being at the beginning of family rituals is a beautiful place to be. So magical.
I so agree on the importance of rituals. They don’t have to be anything in particular–just regular.
Yep- the regularity is what I savor. Even my own “private” rituals thrill me- heading up to bed alone, turning on my heating pad, and reading for 10-15 minutes alone. I get excited just thinking about it!
I do the same thing with my Izze! We read Secret Garden, Treasure Island, The Wind in the Willows, Mr Poppers Penguins, what else? Ooooo Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh!
We are continuing on with this, it is really amazing to watch them truly enjoy these books that someday other kids will feel “forced” to read!
Great minds my dear!
Mr. Popper’s Penguins! Yes! I’d forgotten that one- can we start reading it at age 7? I don’t remember when I read it.. love that book! Thanks, Jen!
Very lovely. My all time favourite book is The Secret Garden as well. Love, love, love it.
Looking forward to learning about more of your rituals. So great.
Thank you Kelly. It is a fantastic book, and so fun to read it as an adult!
What?!?? I used to go to Lake Okoboji every summer!!!!! I have a love for that place (almost) unlike any other. My uncle has a house there and the whole family used to squeeze into it every summer. Hard to so now, but I haven gotten to take my kids twice now.
Now back to the rest of your post…I got really excited there.
Shut. Up. Are you serious??? Where are you from? Nobody’s ever heard of Lake Okoboji!!! I love that! We stayed at Village West- it used to be Vacation Village back in the day. West Okoboji-ish…
And I’m back. Seriously, loved, loved, loved your post from the comfort and security of Lake Okoboji to the unbridled mirth of this season to classic children’s literature. It’s like you spoke from my heart.
Oh, thanks Sarah. Thanks for the rest of that comment- so lovely and a fantastic compliment! 🙂
great transition into next week! There are so many wonderful traditions that we need to keep alive for our own kids and pass the love down. You and your brother were VERY cute.
Thanks Karen! Can’t wait to read everyone’s next week posts!
What beautiful stories of reading to your girls! Love the image of Sophie reaching out to try and catch the butterflies and Izzy squealing under the covers with excitement when Mary first discovered the secret garden (that book was always one of my favourites too :). Yours girls are so lucky to have a mummy who reads aloud to them … I think that is one of the greatest gifts you can possibly give a child.
Thank you for that lovely comment, Lizzy- I appreciate it!
When I was a kid, I actually converted my bedroom closet into a library/reading room lol. There are actually a few books I wish I could remember the titles of – I’d pick them up to read again. There really is magic between those pages. Too bad books seem to be going by the wayside in favor of e-readers. It’s just not the same. Hang on to those precious memories! 🙂
Oh I’m jealous! I would have loved to have my own private closet library! What a great idea!
Love the book club – the Best Christmas Pageant Ever and The Secret Garden are two of my favorite stories!!!! One thing we have in common – I am a huge nostalgia junkie, too, but not at all “crafty” about it. I have tons of pictures in albums and digital, but no fancy, creative scrapbook-y books! Cant’ wait to read next week!
Thanks Lisa! I’m glad I’m not the only nostalgia junkie who lacks the craft skills to back it up! Can’t wait to read your post!
I love traditions of all kinds. Interestingly enough, it is my younger daughter who seems to really latch onto them, too, which makes me smile. :)-Ashley
It is gratifying when our kids embrace those traditions, isn’t it?
I’m a stickler for traditions too. They really are comforting.
It sort of sucks when the kids aren’t as into what you were as a kid as much as you were. One of my three is and that’s cool, so I’m trying to be more into what the other two are so we have some things to share that they like, if that makes sense. Lol.
It does make sense, and good for you! It is sometimes easier to parent the kids whose interests resemble our own! 🙂
Aw, I love this! I’m writing about my mom reading to me when I was little, too – my favorite childhood memory. 🙂 Once again, you and I are very similar. I loved the traditions, the family time that made me feel safe and not anxious.
Oh I can’t wait to read your post! Yes, you and I have much in common, my friend!
I just love this so much. And, I LOVE the idea of book club. I want to start this with my 7 year old. 🙂 And, the Secret Garden!!! I LOVED that book as a child. I think you have inspired me to hunt down a pretty copy for a Christmas gift for my daughter. I could just imagine everything you were writing.
Yes! Hunt down a copy of the book! You’ll love reading it with your daughter. Thanks for such a fantastic comment!
And, I have to tell you, I just had this feeling my sister still had MY copy of this book, so I just called her, and sure enough, she had it, and since my name was in the front, she couldn’t dispute it was mine! I’m going to wrap that up and give it to my daughter for Christmas! 🙂
Yay! I’m so glad!!!
Stephanie, that’s so gorgeous, and lovely that one of your favourite things is really, really good time spent with your daughters, helping them to love books.
The Secret Garden is one I go back to again and again, even now, and I TOTALLY had a massive crush on Dickon. Still do, tbh, but the grown-up version (oh how I WISH he existed!).
Oh I totally get your Dickon crush. Seriously. He would’ve made the perfect mate. (Swooon!) And thanks for such a wonderful comment- much appreciated! 🙂
I love the idea of a book club at bedtime, and saving only the best books for it. Such a lovely nightly ritual!
Thank you, my fellow ritual-cherishing friend!
I knew that you were going to do this topic justice and couldn’t wait to read your post.
So one of the five (!) FTSF posts I started writing this week before I chose one to concentrate on was precisely this – reading with my mom and how she would read grownup books to me which ignited my imagination and fueled my games and story writing (which will probably happen to Izzy, as well). Reading this reminded me of how wonderful it was to read with Ben when he was a toddler and have him recite entire pages to me and it made me look forward to experiencing that again with Daniel and the description of Sophie opening up her arms made my heart ache along with yours and I knew exactly what you had meant by that.
Oh, thank you so much for that! I really worried that this post wasn’t as good as it should’ve been. I appreciate knowing that you connected with this! Can’t wait to read yours!
I loved reading to my kids when they were little. I read to them before they even knew what a book was and now that they are older, they love to read.
Secret Garden is still one of my favorite books ever and I have a copy on my bookshelf right now. I probably don’t need to tell you but I will anyway, Book Club is a phenomenal thing you are doing!
Thank you! I appreciate hearing that! One of my greatest parental pleasures to date is seeing my oldest child become a reader. She truly loves it, and I am so grateful for that.
Great idea calling it a ‘book club’. My daughter reads with her youngest each night and I had a tear of joy when I heard he was requesting his older brothers to read to him some nights. The small moments make for the largest impact in kids and adults of all ages. Great read on traditions 🙂
Thank you so much for that comment. I agree that reading to our kids is so important!
Christmastime is my favorite time for traditions and rituals. I love them! I also love, love, love reading books to my oldest son. He LOVES to listen to me read and he enjoys classics – the ones I never got to read…and a few I did. I love that we’re BOTH enjoying the books. We just finished Old Yeller and The Sign of the Beaver – I loved it and he did too. Now if only I could get my 8yo to enjoy reading. He rolls around on the floor so hard that he disturbs us, so I just have him leave the room and then read Berenstain Bears to him later.
How I love to read your blogs. It warms the cockles of my heart and makes me feel I WAS a pretty good mommy!
Izzy squealing and hiding under the covers because of her excitement over a book — Stephanie, you are giving your girls the most amazing gift. I miss the days of reading to my children, but when my daughter asks for books for gifts because she loves reading, it makes my heart swell. Will we see any more cute pics of you and your brother next week? You really rocked those red knee highs!