What do you get when a group of “gaga” grandmas get together to talk about their favorite rituals and traditions? Lots of wonderful stories and memories of our children and grandchildren.
It’s become a tradition in our GaGa Sisterhood to celebrate Grandparents Day together and this year was especially sweet. I asked the GaGas to bring a photo or prop of their favorite family ritual or tradition. I explained that women are often the ritual makers for the family, but today’s young moms may not have time to plan rituals. We grandmas can supplement by creating simple meaningful rituals for our grandchildren.
Rituals are the “glue” that connects us and strengthens our family ties. Rituals help us focus and connect, which is even more important in today’s fast-paced life where we multitask and have less face-to-face connections. We’re often intimidated by the word “rituals” because we think they must be serious, solemn or centuries old. But “rituals” is a stretchy word that can include everything from daily meditation, weddings, funerals, and the opening of the Olympics to kissing our grandchild’s boo-boos.
Why Are Rituals Important
Ritual is power. We can teach our children and grandchildren how that power works and how to use it in creative ways so that we can pass on our deepest values. In her book, The Book of New Family Traditions (Revised and Updated): How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays and Every Day, author Meg Cox lists “10 good things rituals do for children.”
- Impart a sense of identity
- Provide comfort and security
- Help navigate change
- Teach values
- Pass on ethnic or religious heritage
- Teach practical skills
- Solve problems
- Keep alive a sense of departed family members
- Help heal from loss or trauma
- Generate wonderful memories
Ritual is theater—it’s a show put on by connected people who want to stay together and celebrate the bonds between them. Rituals don’t have to be big. But they should have a purpose and be personal. Make them direct and active as possible and fun is always a plus.
Examples of Rituals with Grandchildren
As the GaGas shared their stories at our meeting, they said they stirred up a flood of treasured memories of rituals they’d enjoyed when their children were little and are now carrying on with their grandchildren.
- Pam has a two-month old granddaughter and she’s already started the bedtime storytelling ritual with her granddaughter that she did when her children were little. She lights a candle and says: “Candle burning bright, bring the magic of storytelling to us tonight.” Then after she’s read the story, she blows out the candle and kisses her good night.
- Cheri says the heart of her family is in the kitchen. She loves to cook with her two grandsons, ages 7 and 5. She gave them each a step stool and apron as soon as they could stand up. Recently, she and her older grandson made a video in which Ari introduces himself in “Ari and Nama’s Junior Cooking Show.” He says he learned his technique for cooking salami and eggs from his grandma.
- Helena has enjoyed holiday tea with her friend for over forty years. One year they decided to each bring a gift for a needy child. They started inviting Helena’s daughter to their tea when she was 6-years old and included a gift from her as well. Now Helena includes her 6-year old granddaughter in the holiday gift giving.
- Marcia says the #1 criterion for the rituals she enjoys with her four grandchildren is that they must be fun. So when they all arrive, they head straight for the king-size waterbed and all tumble around on it. Her other ritual is flipping pancakes over her shoulder and onto the plate of her grandchild who stands behind her ready to catch the flying pancake!
- Elizabeth and her husband have their morning coffee in bed while they do the New York Times crossword puzzle. When their 13-year old granddaughter visits, they invite her to join them with a cup of hot chocolate and her own pen to help solve the puzzle. When the words get too difficult, grandpa gives clues.
Imagine the memories these lucky grandchildren will have when they think back on their childhoods and the bonds they formed with their grandparents.