Rituals provide children with comfort and security. They help children deal with change. They give them a sense of identity and an understanding of what is valued in their family. I know the importance of rituals because I grew up in a family that valued rituals and traditions. I passed them on to my children and now my daughter and son-in-law are creating new ones for their two daughters.
Rituals are different from routines. The goal of routines is continuity. The goal of rituals is connection. Rituals are the glue that bonds families together. When we do a ritual, we send a message that what we’re doing matters and is meaningful to us, no matter how simple. Repeating the ritual reinforces the bond that is created.
I am always looking for opportunities to create rituals with my two granddaughters. Twice a month for the past six years I’ve been driving 130 miles to visit them for a two-night stay. When Juliet was little, and I would get ready to leave, she would always feel sad. On one visit she came out to my car and looked in the glove compartment. She found a package of oyster crackers and asked if she could have them. And thus our “goodbye ritual” was born. Now, whenever I leave, Juliet runs out to my car and searches the glove compartment for her goodbye treat. Another part of the goodbye ritual is giving my signature honk (Shave and a haircut-two bits) as I head down the driveway—unless, of course, Amelia is napping!
Last weekend I took my daughter and two granddaughters on our Third Annual Girls Getaway to Guerneville. We had a wonderful three days together. When it was over, we were all feeling a little sad as we hugged goodbye. Juliet remembered our goodbye ritual and reached in my glove compartment for her crackers. But when my daughter saw the selection of the little packets of processed crackers, she did not want Amelia to have any. So she told Juliet she could not have any this time. Being the mature big sister that she is, Juliet took it in stride. But I could tell she was disappointed. We gave our final hugs and my daughter and the girls walked down the street to their car. But it felt like something was missing without our goodbye ritual.
As I drove past them, I gave my signature honk and waved. Surprised, the three of them looked over at me. The big smiles on their faces said it all. The other part of our goodbye ritual gave us the closure we were all needing.