What can we give our children that really matters? This month, through letters to my children, I am exploring those things that I hope and pray that they will receive – either today, tomorrow or 30 years from now. Once they can read, I will share these with them. Personally, It is my hope, that through the process of writing these letters will help me be a better parent and human being. I hope those who read them may find them helpful too!
To my son (M) and daughter (C),
Our lives move so quickly! Here you are, still little my the eyes of others, but so big through mine! Not long ago I had to do everything for you! Yet now, you can get dressed and talk and say “no, I don’t like that”!
You are making your way through this world, for now, not too far away from me, but still, you are making your own way.
Yet, this world can be chaotic and confusing and uncertain. Stuff does happen. Sometimes we can control and plan, other times things happen “to us” and we have to adjust. Time passes, we get older, our needs and abilities and limits change. You will move from our safe home and into a wider world, eventually, making your own home, but perhaps moving multiple times. Stability, sameness, is a rare quality in this life. Expect change.
There will be and are and have been many times in your life that can easily be passed by, yet somehow, should be cherished and marked.
Your baptisms were family and community rituals, welcoming you into the life of our family, our faith, and our communities. They marked your entrance into this world, a celebration of joining us as part of our family, our friends and our human community, as one of God’s Children, as our children.
Right now, we are in the midst of living out and creating family Christmas traditions and rituals. Your father and I are bringing into our family traditions gleaned from our separate family’s growing up. We are also incorporating our own traditions, rituals that mark us a unique and individual family. In various ways, these traditions describe who we are and what we value. Your “Elf on a Shelf” is for pure joy, our tree and nativities connect us to Christians throughout time, known and unknown, and our ornaments mark and remind us of unique aspects of our lives. And tomorrow we will begin a new one, a melding of St. Nicholas Day – that your father experienced growing up and I experienced in Germany, and my mother’s tradition of giving her children an ornament for each Christmas so we would have something for our first trees on our own. Tonight, you will put out a shoe in front of your door, and tomorrow morning you will find this year’s ornament – something thoughtfully chosen to honor who you are now, this year. (You already have some from years past, but gifted with not as much fanfare.)
Your preschool has rituals, we celebrate birthdays with rituals, and our general society too, even if not generally accompanied with celebration.
Yet, I hope that throughout your life you will find ways to mark important times, transitions, even seemingly minor moments, with the amazing power of rituals. (I also pray that we, your parents and other around you, will provide them for you too!)
Ritual, traditions, sacraments, whatever they are called in whatever form, lift up the meaning of our lives. They remind us of the grace and magic and joy, but also the sadness and memories. In your youth, I hope the rituals only mark good times, happy events – starting kindergarten, learning to read, getting a driver’s license. Yet, someday, rituals may mark times of sadness or unwanted change. Either way, they will help you cherish, make meaning, make sense, and realize the importance of the events in our lives. They connect us to others, to the passage of time, to our development, and to God.
May your life be filled with rituals, as life is too precious to just let it pass by.
What are the rituals you value most? Have there been times in your life when you wished you had, had a ritual? What ideas of rituals do you have for the future?