While we only have a few of them, family traditions are important for us. The biggest traditions for us are around Christmas, birthdays, and our annual camping weekend.
Most of the traditions we hold to have been the same for years. For birthdays, the birthday person can choose their favorite meal. Some of the kids choose the same thing year after year. Others choose something different every year. Either way, it’s the one time of the year they guarantee they can have the meal of their choice, within reason of course. With six people, we aren’t going to a restaurant with meals running around $30 per person.
Others have evolved over time. Christmas, for example, started a small simple affair. Over the years it’s broadened to starting a couple of weeks before the actual holiday with decorating, Christmas music, and a family picture around the tree. For several years we had Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, and some years we do the big meal on Christmas Day. And most years we drive around on Christmas Eve looking at lights around town before the kids get their Christmas jammies.
And yet others started many years ago and simply became one of the best weekends of the year.
I don’t actually know when this tradition started, but for my kids, it’s the best thing all year. In fact, my niece will literally talk about this one weekend all year long. And for most of this past summer, my seven-year-old wouldn’t stop talking about this one upcoming weekend.
Every year our family, along with a myriad of extended family, treck to a semi-neutral location for a long weekend of camping. Some years are smaller because of travel conditions, work issues, or other reasons. And some weekends we have upwards of 40-people. There are siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and even friends who join in.
For me, it’s pretty cool. My kids get one weekend a year to meet their extended family. Family members they rarely ever see any other time. It’s an opportunity to know a small portion of their family that simply live too far away for regular visits.
And even though it’s only once a year it’s the one time they know they are guaranteed a vacation.
Most of my children have attended this annual event every year of their lives. There were a couple of years when the oldest two were small we were not able to make it, but they were so little they probably do not remember it.
What they do remember are the memories created year after year. Getting to know their extended family. Visiting the ocean. Zip lining. Hanging out around a campfire roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. And of course eating way too much food.
Every year the kids are that much bigger and allowed that much more freedom. Now some of them are old enough to venture off without adults, just a group of kids. Some of them are old enough to sleep in their own tents. And some are old enough to help with firewood and making the fire.
The other kids who attend are also bigger every year. Kids that only a year or two were little, are growing into young adults. Those that were toddlers are quickly growing into kids.
And every year there is a group photo. Always taken on the last day after the tents are down, the cars are loaded, and the area cleaned up. We always look so tired, a little grungy, and yet so happy.
The Importance of Traditions
For us, traditions are important. The reality is we don’t have many years with our kids at home. For the most part, only the first 18 can be counted on. It’s in those 18 years we have to take them from tiny infants to self-sufficient adults. It’s a tall order for any parent.
Traditions throughout the years though, allow for stability, allow for knowing what is coming. They also allow for memories, nostalgia, and bonding. Whether it’s around a table celebrating a birthday, around a tree decorated together, or around a campfire year after year, our family grows. Yes, we physically grow, but we also grow together.
Kids who couldn’t reach to put the tall ornaments on a couple of years ago are soon able to reach the top of the tree. Kids who couldn’t choose their own meal one year, are ordering from a menu they can read in just a short time. And those who couldn’t even pack their own clothes for camping are soon helping set up tents and chopping firewood.
It’s these family traditions that not only grant us time together but also give us a sense of wonder and belonging. Preparing for camping the kids wonder who will be attending, if they will be able to do certain things, how people have changed over the year. But they know that no matter what, these people they see for one weekend out of the year are their family and a large part of who they are. This is their history being played out right in front of them.
Maintaining Traditions Just Because
I’m not going to lie – this year I was not very excited to go. This year, our annual camping trip seemed more like another item on my ever-growing to-do list rather than an enjoyable family tradition. The kids were unbelievably excited and I did my best to hide my reservations.
As the day approached to leave I worked on meal planning and prep work, packing, and shopping lists. Flashlights, for some strange reason, are always on the list every year. It doesn’t seem to matter how many of them I purchase, we always need at least a couple.
Tarps were also added to the prep list because the forecast called for rain. Not really what I wanted to hear, but that’s life when camping.
I’m not really sure when it happened though, but there was a change. When I went from not wanting to really go to getting excited about the trip. I do recall telling hubby that I wasn’t going to stress over what time we would be leaving, or if we arrived early or late. That it was a vacation and we were going to just relax about it.
Remembering To Simply Enjoy The Moment
The day we left things went smoothly. Until we got as far as the local grocery store and I remembered that I had left the frozen items at home in the fridge.
Oh well, no biggie, right?
Traffic wasn’t bad except for the four close calls we had before we had even traveled an hour.
But we made it. We arrived safely and started setting up the camping area. Family arrived as well and by the end of the day, things are good as we all sat around a campfire and just enjoyed some conversation.
The next day was the only day forecasted to be decent weather, so we tried to make the most of it. Swimming, walks around the camp ground, and zip lining occupied most of the day. This year was the first time my seven-year-old was able to go and he had the best time! By the end of the time slot, he was maneuvering around the course without my help at all.
The day was almost perfect, and then, I locked my keys in the vehicle. That’s a first for me. And not something I want to do again. Thankfully, we were able to get back in without too much trouble. The day wore on and continued to be fun, relaxing, and enjoyable.
The following day we prepped for the impending rain storm, and when it arrived we made the most of our time. Conversations, cards, and comradery took over the afternoon as we all hunkered down in attempt to stay dry.
Finally, the day came to pack up and head home. Tired, dirty, and ready to return we disassembled our camping area and make the trip north. Glad to have made the trip. Grateful for the time and the memories that this annual tradition holds.
And very much looking forward to next years trip.