Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Power of Family Rituals

Bedtime routines for American parents are all probably variations on a similar theme. The components -- pajamas, bathroom, books, stuffed animals, kisses and lights out -- are nightly
commonalities that all families share.

On the other hand, bedtime rituals are much more likely to be distinctly individual and uniquely yours.
crescent moon over black night sky

Take my two year old, Claire, and me. We have a nightly ritual that I love to call our own. Indeed, she doesn't even share it with her father at bedtime.

I don’t know how our nightly ritual started or who started it….

We lie down together in the quiet time between day and night. Claire is all snug in her Dora PJ's with that freshly-washed baby shampoo smell. She looks at me wide-eyed and begins with the same expression each night, “Let’s talk about the day, mama!”

I always say back, “OK, would you like to go or should I?”

Sometimes, she details her favorite part of the day first; sometimes, she wants me to share; sometimes, she asks me to guess what hers is.

When I guess, I’m often wrong. To my surprise and delight, she doesn’t pick the piece of cake at Uncle Ben’s birthday (my kid loves cake even more than most kids, if that’s even possible to imagine). Instead, she says that her favorite thing was seeing Aunt Ana and JuJu (her cousin Julian).

I love that she picks people over cake. I love hearing her talk about her day -- even when I've been around for most of it.

Then, she asks me to share my favorite part of the day.

I want to say,  “Right here. Right now.” I want to say, “This time that we share is by far the best part of my day.”

I doubt she’d understand, so I usually pick something like “cake”, instead. Anyway, I’m not really sure whether it’s important what we say. What's important is that Claire and I do the same thing every night.

Our nightly ritual is about more than relaying the facts of the day. It's how we bring the day to a close, how we mark the transition from day to night. We stand outside of ourselves and outside of time. My daughter comes into focus, and I forget my silly circumstances -- the sink full of dishes and the bills waiting to be paid.

It's our time to reflect, Claire and me. We slow down. We stop and listen. We find each other in quiet, in-between moments.

A ritual has the power to sustain relationships across time. Its continuity affirms our loyalty to one another, despite the exigencies of the day. Our commitment to it, night after night or day after day, becomes something bigger than each of us.

Yes, the bedtime ritual that my daughter and I share is the best part of my day. Beats cake. Hands down.

Do you have rituals with your kids? When and how do they resonate in your life?

Connect with: Bloglovin'FBTwitterG+Pinterest

Photo Source: Kain Kalju, Flickr, this photo has been changed, The licensor does not endorse this website or the use of this photo 


  1. I love this! :) What wonderful time between you and Claire.

  2. Totally beats cake hands down and love your best part of the day by far! Thanks Rachel for linking this up with us and sharing with us once again!! :)

  3. Rachel! I love love love and adore this. I was rightthere, in the room with you. Breathing. Feeling. Right there rightthere. I love that you have this ritual. I love that Claire gets it. All of it. I hope that this goes on for years and years and for all of the years. Forever. Because? Perfect. I also love how much our brains took this and thought "Yes. Those Moments. Them. The ones that are due to Being and not anything else.

  4. I love this ~ what a beautiful ritual and true quality time you spend with your daughter each night. When my daughter was two, we would do this, and I, too, loved hearing what she remembered from her day. I have recently started a new ritual with my daughter at bedtime. We recite a brief lovingkindness mantra (may I be safe, may I be happy, etc.), and then our "prayer" is we each pick to do either a Help, a Thanks, or a Wow from the day (credit Anne Lamott). I love it! Great post about a beautiful ritual.

  5. This is so beautiful and puts me to shame. I cuddle with Dino when he is in bed and talk to him about his day and what is happening tomorrow...but did I write about it? NOPE...I feel so guilty now, LOL

    I think that is a great ritual and you really do learn so much about your child in those few minutes.

  6. Wow, this is beautiful. I love the idea of a bedtime ritual and I absolutely love and admire the way you have with words and your ability to describe it so well. Have a wonderful weekend.

  7. So sweet! What a great way to end the day together.

  8. That is such a lovely ritual, and something I'm sure she'll cherish all her life! #FTSF

  9. That is so nice that you two do that every night. I love hearing about my son's day (even though I already know most of it) through his words. One little ritual we have is a special hug, kiss, and secret we whisper to each other whenever I drop him off at preschool :).

  10. This is so beautiful, Rachel! Those moments are so precious. I love our bedtime ritual, too, and almost wrote about it today!

  11. I love this! Those little things that are all yours with your child that you are not required to share with anyone, anywhere are the absolute best!

  12. That is a gorgeous, gorgeous ritual, and I love that you get to do it every night you put her to bed. Splendid :D

  13. What a beautiful, special time for you and your little sweetheart! Our traditions have changed as our children have grown. Gone from story, prayer and goodnight snuggles, to visiting in the living room till nearly midnight. And each stage has been utterly precious. So glad you - and your daughter - are enjoying your delightful journey!

  14. Guess what, I too think this was beautiful. Very heartfelt, very relatable and I was reliving my own experience with Ben as I was reading this. I heard someone not too long ago quote a sentence that I loved (can't remember from whom): the most personal is the most universal. In describing something that is so yours I know you've appealed to so many. Ben and I have recently starting doing something similar. A time after story telling which is devoted entirely to conversation. Sometimes we talk about the day, but mostly we talk about the cat in puss in boots.

  15. OMIGOD, that is so cute! i want to do exactly this with my child!

  16. I love the rituals. There is something about them that is calming and soothing.

  17. Oh I love this! I always put the boy to sleep because my husband is either working or asleep already. We do the normal and then he says "Mama, lets snuggle" he's 8 now and I am so afraid of the day he stops saying that...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...