I say “routine” and people think “brush teeth.”
I say “ritual” and people think “human sacrifice.”
Let’s clarify so we avoid innocent young women burning at chieftain stakes when all I want to get at is the epic Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl.
Routines are those daily activities, like brushing our teeth, that we do in order to keep ourselves and our crew alive and happy. Rituals, then, are typically those traditional activities that happen around holidays, special occasions, or other celebrations. So for example, on Christmas Day you might routinely get dressed, but you’d ritually have roast and potatoes for dinner at Grandma’s at 4:00 (rituals are talked about with vigor and accompanied by a feeling of “wouldn’t miss it for the world”). I’ve heard some people describe rituals as symbolic repetitive instances (okay that makes sense), while routines constitute more of the daily grind (I imagine you’re with me). However, sometimes routines cross. the. line. into ritual zone by becoming meaningful but everyday patterned interactions… throwing our mundane, daily activities into the realm of the symbolic and ritual-esque.
I threw that wrench.
Routines can be meaningful and even sacred.
The potential benefits from family practice of regular routines and meaningful rituals are HUGGGEEEEE. Lots of scholars say, and I completely agree (as I slide my glasses back into place) that routines and rituals represent more than just the activities themselves. The symbolic nature of routines and rituals gives family members a strong sense of identity, security, support, and an increased level of physical and psychological health. So basically there’s something more to breakfast than just avocado toast. Although avocado toast is de-lish and stands on a solid two feet.
Kids specifically reap mega benefits from family routines and rituals. These ritual-rich children tend to be more expressive (read: they talk more), physically healthier, less anxious, and academically achieving. Parents with a steady supply of routines and rituals in their lives (and the hybrid routine-ritual…routual…. too much?) become more satisfied in their marriages, competent in parenting, and report greater harmony within the family. Meaningful routines and rituals make life healthier, rewarding, and comfortable. Boo-yah.
Think. Think of all the things you do every day (brushing teeth, combing hair, getting dressed, eating meal after meal after meal, prepping and cleaning meal after meal after meal…. etc. and so on) and choose ONE. Choose one to make extra special. Choose one meal a week that your kids and spouse will look forward to in some way.
My husband’s sweet sweet grandpa died a couple weeks ago, and one of my big take-aways from his funeral came from a story. Apparently Grandpa and Grandma woke up the kids each morning, then brought everyone into their king sized bed to read scriptures together. That feels magical to my mommy heart.
Another example: Family movie night becomes a cherished memory when the whole fam piles onto the comfy sofa, surrounding the big screen. Growing up I loved camping out with my family on our big green sectional to watch Star Wars marathons. Inevitably Dad would end up on the floor with an elbow propped into the nook of the couch holding a big cup of Cream of Mushroom soup, and one of the kids would end up swallowed in the saggy hide-a-bed part of the couch. Ahhh… memories…
In epic conclusion: the environment we surround ourselves and our families with (usually our mansion/apartments/shack/houses/outhouse [shout-out to childhood MASHO]) has HUGE POTENTIAL to assist us in ritualing and routining in ways that have awesome-serious side effects.
Another analogy (analogies speak to me): I think of homes as the mixing bowl used to make chocolate chip cookies. Though dough mixing is possible without a bowl that’s big/sturdy/accommodating (or dishwasher-safe/indestructible) enough, it just is SO much better when all the elements can combine in a place that was meant for cookie dough mixing. And cleaning. And stirring, and dropping, and all that goes into cookie baking. Same with our houses. We gotta think about how we want our family-cookies to combine and mesh, then make the house-bowl that will provide maximum results.
Happy House-Cookie-ing to All. Tell me your favorite family routuals (it stuck).