first trip to Storyland, June 2010
As I’ve written many times before, traditions are important to me. The family rituals that dot our calendar year function as a kind of scaffolding for our family life. They are that important to me. To us. I’m convinced that traditions and ritual provide comfort and stability Grace and Whit as well as marking a reassuring rhythm to the months of the year.
The challenge is how this belief in tradition can coexist with my equally firm yet somewhat opposed desire that my children have new experiences. I want them to see the world, and making this happen is something that by definition takes away from adherence to tradition. We have limited vacation time and means, and we have to make choices. Time is, after all, our only true zero sum resource. This year, for example, we aren’t going to Legoland. Letting go of that ritual was hard, but it was time, and the time it opened up allowed for a visit to another new place. Whit has told me a few times that he feels really sad that we aren’t going, but I explained that we are doing something else this year, and he is looking forward to that.
Another thing we do every year is go to Storyland at the end of the school year. This year, we went ziplining in the New Hampshire woods. We maintained our tradition while changing its shape. We stayed at the same hotel that we always do. We went to the same restaurant for dinner. We visited the same water park. The energy of celebration and rejoicing in simply being together was absolutely the same. We were all reassured, I’m certain of it, that our ritual could shift but still have tremendous meaning.
Can you spin it so you have it both ways, in that each calendar year we have a new adventure, that that’s the tradition? Maybe so. These don’t have to be big expensive trips, by the way. We went to Jerusalem and to the Galapagos, yes, but I would also put our family trip to Washington up alongside those international forays. What I’m after for Grace and Whit are new experiences which show them this broad, beautiful world as well as remind them how small they are within it. There’s something both daunting and reassuring about realizing how small we are in the enormous swath of time and geography, and I personally think we all realize it eventually. I just want them to do so earlier rather than later.
So now, I think about places I want to go, consider how to mold the rituals we still have so that they allow for these experiences, try to balance familiarity with new adventure. Just as with everything else in this life, the only thing we can count on is change. I know our traditions provide a comforting handhold in the slipstream of time for Grace and Whit (and for me), but I also need to make sure they change as necessary.
ziplining in New Hampshire, June 2014