None of our family are gifted photographers, but a number of years ago we were given a Sony video camera. In place of holiday snaps of children building sandcastles and playing cricket on the beach, we could capture the fun, games, fights and arguments on film in real time. We now have a large drawer full of recordings and one of our favourite pastimes, particularly on birthdays or at Christmas, is to get them out and re-live the memories. These evenings would be boring for any unsuspecting guests who might have the misfortune to be present for one of our family film nights. But to us, they are precious memories of things we used to do when the children were little. They have captured the traditions and memories that make our family unique.
Each family has its memories and traditions and they will all be different. If, as adults, we are asked to describe our childhood, more likely than not, it won't be long before we alight on a family tradition. Many families have traditions around birthdays or Christmas that are simply the way that they do things - where they hang their decorations, their favourite recipes or the order of the day's events. We have a faded birthday banner that has ceremoniously been hung in our kitchen in February, March, April, May and twice in September for the last 20 years. It is torn at the edges and stuck together with Sellotape. Last year I decided it had had its day and should be relegated to the bin. My suggestion was met with outrage from our (now grown-up) children. Apparently the banner, however faded, is an essential part of birthdays in our household. Birthdays just wouldn't be birthdays without that banner because 'we always' put it up. Suffice to say, the banner remains.
Some family traditions simply emerge of their own accord while others are created deliberately, but they all put precious deposits in our family memory bank. Our family traditions over the years have included everyone piling into our bed at 7am on birthdays, buns after school on Fridays, burger and chips on family nights, spending October half-term with the same two families, having breakfast at Tesco, singing all five verses of 'Auld Lang Syne' raucously at midnight on New Year's Eve, camping in the Quantocks, wearing silly hats to the cinema, and playing charades on Christmas Day, to name just a few. Think about what traditions you already have, and maybe even create some more. If you can't think of any, your children will help you!
Traditions and shared memories are important for children as they help build a sense of family identity, belonging - what one academic called 'a sense of connectedness' - they are unique to us. If we are in a blended or stepfamily then we may need to combine different ways of doing things - perhaps keeping some traditions and making new ones together - but as we do that we will find we are putting down roots and building a new identity. We are creating a 'We always ... ' memory for our children's future.