On Friday night, my kids never ask what’s for dinner or what we are doing. Somewhere along our family’s history, Friday was dubbed Pizza Movie Night. Every Friday, with very few exceptions, we order pizza and all settle in on the brown sofa with some overflow onto the loveseat. We pour our soda into cups, always with lids because clumsiness is wound tightly in my genes (and sticky runs deep in my sofa cushions). The movie changes from week to week—sometimes an animated classic, sometimes a new release, and sometimes a marathon of Phineas and Ferb. One thing never changes; we are together on Friday night.
This family tradition is so routine and familiar, my two-year-old could lead it in my absence. In fact, he falls right in line with the other kids. He puts a slice of pizza on his paper plate (no dishwashing allowed on Friday night), grabs his sippy cup of “pizza juice,” and heads to the living room. He asks someone to turn on the television and waits for the feature presentation to begin. If there is any variation to his Pizza Movie Night routine, we can anticipate a small tantrum on the floor courtesy of the terrible two’s.
When my son began to narrate our Friday nights step by step the way toddlers do, I began to grasp how very comforting our Pizza Movie Night is to every member of our family. It is the simplest of nights in our household. But each of us find our family center here; it is our ground zero.
You may have similar traditions that anchor your family: Taco Tuesday, biking around the park every Saturday morning, breakfast for dinner on Sunday night. These small pillars of our week help create a small respite in the midst of chaos.
Family traditions have benefits extending far beyond answering the dreaded “what’s for dinner” question.
Family traditions provide constancy. Parents and children alike experience chaos throughout the week. Be it work, school, or social friction, life is hard for all of us. The family routines we establish are cornerstones of stability in our week.
Family traditions provide continuity. Children thrive on routine. When very little is in their control, being able to count on regular family events provides much-needed structure. Parents enjoy the routine, too. Friday night is my chance to take off my event coordinator hat and sit back and enjoy my family. Once fun family traditions are established, we get to spend less time planning and more time enjoying.
Family traditions provide comfort. My kids know they have a warm spot beside me on the sofa every Friday night. There is comfort in knowing where the feeling of home can be found. Those traditions you create now can provide comfort for years to come. As your children take your family traditions into their own homes, they will experience generational well-being.
Family traditions provide a connection. As our kids get older, they tend to get busier. These foundational family moments provide a consistent point of connection. I know Pizza Movie Night will soon be replaced by movies with friends and (gasp) date nights. I treasure these moments of connection we have now and I sure hope my kids will join us every now and then for a slice and a DVD once they are grown.
Take some time to consider your family values and ways you can work them into your family’s routines. If serving is important to your family, you can set aside the first Saturday of the month as serve day. Perhaps you want to incorporate a little more fun into your week; consider a donut run on Saturday mornings. If a conversational connection point with your kids is what you are after, establish Thursday night as date night and take one of your kids out for some one-on-one time. If you don’t know where to start, grab a cheese pizza and invite your family to join you for Pizza Movie Night!