The other day my oldest daughter (age 7) discovered a book that was tucked away in a basket by my toilet. It is The Book of New Family Traditions: How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays & Everydays by Meg Cox. As the title suggests, it is filled with all kinds of really fun, new family traditions for holidays or ordinary days. There are many examples of real families and their unusual and very original traditions.
Although my intentions were good when I bought the book (I wanted to create some new family rituals), and despite having read quite a bit of it, I have not yet incorporated any of the ideas into our lives.
My daughter appeared in the kitchen with the book in her hand. “Mom,” she said, “can we do some of these? Because I think our family is boring.”
After I finished mentally half laughing and half crying, I was able to clear my brain of its spontaneous outburst of uncharitable thoughts and realize where this comment came from.
One of my daughter’s best friends (an only child) had been going on a “knitting date” with her Mom (my friend Wishy) after summer camp that day. A trip to the knitting store, followed by some Mom and daughter time knitting together was so exciting that Wishy’s daughter had even run over to tell me all about it when I arrived to pick up my two children.
I explained to my daughter that although our family might seem “boring” compared to some others, she needed to remember that 1) Unlike some children, she had siblings to play with; 2) Most other families that she knows have two ever-present parents (my husband is only here two or three weekends a month); and 3) Only-children have both their parents’ undivided attention. Compare all this to me who has to care for three children 24/7 almost exclusively by myself, and you certainly have the recipe for a BORING FAMILY in the eyes of a 7 year-old.
My daughter actually seemed satisfied with this explanation and happily skipped off to play with her brother. I, however, began to brood about how nice it would be to have time to go on knitting dates with my daughter, or take the kids to the pool more, or bake cookies with them without being begged for days.
I mentioned this conversation to my friend Wishy, and confessed to being a bit jealous of her ability to take her daughter on “knitting dates.” She just laughed and explained that the only reason that they had done the “knitting date” in the first place, was that she had tired of her daughter’s whining about how boring her family was compared to my daughter’s, where there were always at least three kids running around in chaos. Plus, apparently we do “cool projects” (she was here for our Unplugged Project once – “paint”).
We shared a good chat and laugh over this. I was pleased to think that any family inadequacies perceived by my daughter (or me) were all due to perspective. The grass IS always greener on the other side of the fence.