Some days can seem so chaotic. We run from task to task from the moment we open our eyes to the moment we close them again. We often only feel a sense of success when we can check off the boxes on our to-do list. But that success can often be superficial because all those tasks don’t really connect us to the people we love, to ourselves, or to God. We often think, “I’ll make time to connect over the weekend, or holidays, or vacation... when I have time.” But do we really think we can build or nurture relationships in short, infrequent bits of time? When we try to, we are often left feeling unsuccessful and frustrated because creating connection takes time. But how in the world do we fit in that time in the haze of our over scheduled lives?!
One simple change that can help us create connection, without burning us out, is to create rituals. I know, it sounds intense, elaborate, and like a crazy addition to your already jam-packed life. But I’m not talking about the picture perfect, overly detailed rituals as seen on morning tv before a holiday. I’m talking about rituals that fit in easily, make you feel good inside, and connect you with your kids.
I bet you already have some personal rituals that you love. Perhaps it’s that first morning cup of coffee that makes you take a deep breath and sigh “Mmmmm…”. Maybe it’s a daily text with your best friend. Is there a playlist that just makes your day a little better? Or maybe it’s just taking off that bra at the end of the day and getting into comfy clothes. (Again, ahhhh…)
Those little things make you feel just a little bit better, a little more yourself. But they don’t take a lot of time or work. Generally the same will be true with rituals you create with your family.
There are four categories of rituals that when incorporated into our lives cover just about all the areas of life in which we need connection: Working, talking, playing, and praying. Again, don’t freak out. This isn’t about adding to your burden. It’s about lightening it, by actually making connections in simple, rewarding ways so you’re not always waiting to make connections, and then feeling frustrated when it doesn’t happen.
Let’s take a look at each category in turn and look at ideas that might make your life as a mom a little easier and more rewarding.
Let’s start with work rituals because that’s where we all feel the most pressure. We have a zillion and one work tasks per day and most of us approach them by dividing and trying to conquer, while usually feeling like we’re failing in some way. The trick is to do as much of our work alongside our kids as possible.
For example, I have a mom I know who set an amazing example for me. She was studying for an advanced degree while her daughter was in elementary school. She was committed to helping her daughter succeed in school, but also felt deeply about getting this degree to continue very important work to which she was very dedicated. So every night they would work on their schoolwork side by side at the dining table. This allowed her to be there to answer any questions her daughter had, while also being a great example to her daughter of the hard work it takes to meet goals. The mom got her degree and her daughter eventually attended Oxford University. They have remained very close because they built years of partnership together.
This was an amazing accomplishment. But this kind of partnership can be built in many small ways, such as: everyone doing a bit to get dinner on the table (setting the table, getting the drinks, bringing the plates to the table - all while chatting and catching up with each other’s day) or folding laundry together, again while having a nice conversation. Even our littlest can come alongside us with work around the house when given a dust cloth. ( Search Montessori cleaning tools for ideas on this one.)
When we bring our children alongside us while working, things go more smoothly because they don’t feel like they are being pushed aside until we finish our work. They don’t feel like they have to raise a ruckus just to get our attention.They feel, and become, a respected and important part of all the work before us, and they learn to trust us to be companions with their work as well.
Let’s look at play rituals. When so much of parenting seems to be “must dos” it can seem like all we do is work and discipline. That can really suck the joy out of family life and usually instills in us a desperate craving for more and more alone time that never seems to satisfy.
Intentionally inserting play time into every day is the antidote to that constant grind. Daily play doesn’t have to be long. It just has to be moments, intentionally set aside, to do something enjoyable together.
Play in a way that suits your family. For example:
Take a walk together after dinner to breath and shake off the day a bit together.
Play a fifteen minute card game before homework time. (Do a search for that. You’ll be amazed how many there are.) When you do something fun together before homework everybody goes back to work with a better attitude.
Read a wonderful book (not assigned for school) together, one chapter (or more) every night before bed.
Shoot some hoops.
Do an art/ craft project together.
Set aside at least fifteen minutes a day to play together. If you have different personalities and like different things, rotate turns in picking the play ritual each day so that everybody gets to take a turn doing something they enjoy and practicing self donation by doing something the other likes with a positive attitude.
Onto talk rituals. You might see already that work and play rituals are often made more pleasant when talking together is included. This is good, because most of us don’t do well with big “we have to talk” moments. We tend to share our hearts more freely when we’re doing other things. But it is important to set aside some catch-up time on a regular basis with each child so they can have some of your undivided attention.
One friend of mine, who has eleven kids, schedules a time on the calendar for each child to go alone with her to the store. That time alone, driving in the car and walking around the store, becomes precious unshared time with mom. By the way, it also covers a work ritual at the same time! Go out for ice cream, or a walk, or dinner with just that child one on one.
*Important note, talk time is not discipline/correction/ lecture time. We want to develop rapport and relationship with our child by listening and sharing in a loving, supportive way. Save discipline for a different time.
But talk rituals should be shared by the whole family together as well. “Thorns and Roses” is a great way to share the important things that happened in your family’s day. Each person gets to share a thorn (difficult part of the day) and a rose (good part of the day), while the rest of the family is attentive and supportive. But just talking together about the day, or a book you’re reading, or a movie you’ve watched can all be part of a talk ritual, as long as conversation isn’t limited to schedules, or what needs to be picked up at the store.
Lastly, let’s look at the idea of a prayer ritual. We all crave connection with the divine in some way, no matter how old we are. I wholeheartedly encourage you to pray with your children in a way that is meaningful to you both. Every day set aside time to take your concerns to God aloud together. Before bedtime ask God together to help each of you with whatever you need help with - friendships, school work, work projects, hopes. Also take some time to acknowledge where you each saw glimpses of God in your day - a prayer answered, a beautiful sunset, time shared together, the parking space near the door. Wherever you caught a glimpse of God, acknowledge it together, and thank Him for it. It’s a beautiful way to end the day before sleep.
Additionally, it’s wonderful to give blessings to your child. Just put your hand on your child’s head or arm and ask God to bless and protect your child and help with any concerns your child may have. It’s great to do this before they leave the house each day.You can also ask your child to give you a blessing as well.
These prayer rituals help us and our children connect with the divine, and each other and help us to know that we never have to take on this life alone.
Intentionally setting aside time to work, talk, play and pray together helps us to capture each other’s hearts. When we have our children’s hearts the need for discipline diminishes greatly and it is far easier if it is necessary. When we close our eyes at night we can know we know we’ve made loving, important connections with our children and experience a real sense of peace, joy, and accomplishment.