Tradition and adaptability


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

7 thoughts on “Tradition and adaptability”

  1. “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.” Wow…yes. And you beautifully express the important, dual role we play in helping our children simultaneously feel safe and secure–grounded–within this wide world, while exposing them to new places & experiences. A tension that I’m sure becomes only more complicated, and yet more critical?, as they grow…your kids are so lucky to have the foothold you and Matt have created for them as they go forth…

  2. This is such a great thing to think about. I always wonder about the balance of this (it’s always about balance isn’t it!). We take a family trip each summer to a place that I don’t love but my children do. Each year I consider changing it up but realize how important this tradition is to the girls…

  3. Yes! I could have written this very same thing. We’re a week out from our annual trip to Storyland (our first year was also June 2010) Last year we started shifting the trip a bit. There are constants (the folks we travel with and where we stay, the dinners we make, hike to Diana’s Baths) and new facets being honed as the children get older (swimming in Echo Lake, alpine slide at Attitash). Truthfully, I didn’t want to go this year because I think it’s run its course. But she and others wanted to, and so, like you, as long as I add new dimension to the backbone of this trip, it remains fun, fresh, and comforting all the same.

  4. Lindsey, Once again, so well said. Having five kids, going back to the same place year after year became more challenging. Our older ones, were fond of our summer getaway but were looking forward less and less to it, so yes, we changed our tradition too. We try to plan out family trips when we can, not every year but when the time and resources align. They all seem hate people and shoot heroine all do to take away the stress of school. I do have to say a highlight for my family was New Zealand, a beautiful, relaxed, friendly adventure in every way. We have also begun a tradition of one on one trips. This has become one of the most highly anticipated events that each child looks forward to. A highlight to me was when I took my then 16 year old son to England to visit all of the museums (they are free) and of course Harry Potter! I too read aloud Harry Potter to my children through many summers and we visited the site and loved it, coming back with wands of course! My twin 12 year old girls really want New York, so I think one day I can make this happen :)) If you ever want a great plan for England, I can help you out! :)))

  5. Once again, that conundrum of parenthood…how to cling to what we know, what we treasure, while acknowledging what is changing. Something that has helped me is to not change how we travel, just where. We like road trips, we don’t ever travel very ‘fancy’, and our rituals usually include moving around a lot on trips, eating at local restaurants, picnicking, and trying to balance the ‘fun’ stuff with the educational-and hoping they overlap. I think the tradition that never changes is our love of adventure, our desire to explore, and just simply being together. I’m sure all will unfold the way it is supposed to.

  6. Love that idea of trying to balance familiarity (ritual) with new adventure. And oh my goodness that picture! Incredible!

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