I've read many articles over the years about the importance of establishing family traditions. They have huge developmental benefits by giving children a sense of belonging and adding to self esteem. They also help to create a sense of family unity and culture. My husband and I have created a few traditions over the years as well as carrying on some from our own families.
My little girl celebrated her sixth birthday on Saturday and it really brought home to me just how important traditions can be and for the first time, I could see how kids benefit form them with my own eyes. Em is old enough now to remember birthdays that have been and gone, and given the fact that Ed had his birthday back in June, Em was able to remember a lot of the things we did for him and she was really excited that it was her turn this time.
I was quite surprised actually at what these little traditions meant to her and she was so keen and eager to be a part of them. It added to her excitement and she had a strong sense of feeling special and being a part of something bigger. It was a really lovely weekend for our family.
We don't do anything major, but these were the things Em was really looking forward to and couldn't wait to be a part of.
Some of our "Butler Family Birthday Traditions":
- Choosing a birthday cake - Growing up, whenever a birthday would roll around, mum would always let us look through her "Women's Weekly" birthday cake book and choose the cake we wanted. It didn't matter how difficult it was, mum would always have a go. I remember loving this as a child. It really did make me feel special and I loved knowing that mum would happily make whatever cake we wanted, just to make our day as special as she could. I've tried to do the same for my kids and my sister does it for her kids too.
- Presents on the coffee table - I didn't really mean for this to become a tradition, but it has taken on a bit of a life of it's own. The night before each child's birthday, I'll wrap the presents and collect up any that have come from family interstate. They all go onto the coffee table for excited little ones to find first thing in the morning. It comes with a very strict "look but don't touch" rule, which has worked well for us so far.
- "The last day I'm 5" - the night before the birthday, I take a photo of the children on the last day before they turn a year older. I always have a little chat to them about what has happened through the year just gone and encourage them to reflect on what they've enjoyed. I record this in a little notebook I've had since they were young.
- The Birthday interview - folowing on from that, since Em's fourth birthday, I've asked her some interview questions and written down her answers. I think she will enjoy looking back on them as she gets older and she can see how she is growing and changing. They're pretty simple questions like - Your favourite food, colour, friends, toys, but I may make them a little more involved as she gets bigger. I think self-reflection is such a lovely thing to nurture.
- Family time - whether we have a party or not, we always spend some time together as a family on the weekend before or after the birthday and try to have a special outing. In the past few years, we've taken Em to the Melbourne show but this year we went bowling.
- Birthday dinner - Again, regardless of what else has gone on, we always have a family dinner on Birthday night and the person who is celebrating gets to choose exactly what we have. This is always followed up by a cake, which means I am often stuck making two cakes for one birthday, but looking at that little smile as she blows out the candles, surrounded by the people who love her makes it all worth it!!
What birthday traditions do you have in your family? I would love to hear about them.