Last week my kids helped me celebrate my birthday with a new family tradition: Reciting poetry. I asked everyone to memorize a poem and recite it on my birthday. The result was lovely. I felt serenaded. The kids glowed. Since we were with cousins and grandparents, I received six poems altogether, ranging from William Blake to A. A. Milne.
My gift is their gift. Over the years this tradition will give my kids a rich heritage of memorized poems. They are giving me a birthday serenade. I am giving them thoughts and rhythms that can see them through joyful and melancholy times. It’s partly sharing joy in literature. It’s partly giving them tools to accept every emotion.
Memorizing poetry is one way we can intentionally parent.
What skills and heritage DO we want to pass on to our kids? We need to make room for these priorities, whatever they are. Here’s a list of ideas I consider essential — skills and lessons I try to incorporate into our lives.
- Healthy attitudes toward death and life cycles
- Money management, including saving and the ability to delay gratification
- Cooking skills, nutritional choices and stopping when you’re “almost full”
- Basic chores and life skills – how to sweep a floor, set a table, make a bed
- Neighborliness – knowing our neighbors, spending time with them, reciprocating kindness, checking on elderly neighbors
- Family heritage – a knowledge of our family trees, story telling about family history, repeating these stories many times
- Perspective – we are one among 7 billion unique humans
- Magnificence – a sense of wonder and responsibility toward other species
- Seasonal traditions – singing parties, camping trips, celebrations
- Balancing outside messages – identifying ads, going deeper with school history lessons
- Accepting all emotions – understanding that being fully human means experiencing the full range of human emotions
Of course, there’s more. This is a partial list. But it’s good to remind ourselves what’s truly important, what we truly hope to pass on when we interact with kids and set daily (or yearly) rituals.
What would you add to this list? What family lessons or traditions do you treasure today?