I really wanted the first blogpost of the 2021 to be amazing and meaningful. Instead, I am grappling for words, trying to readjust and rebalance my family and work life once again, like many other parents and carers in the UK. So far, the New Year felt like a false start – another lockdown, plans cancelled and kids are back to studying from home.
Personally, we are feeling the prospect of this lockdown more than before. Winters here are miserable and psychologically challenging even without the stay at home order. My extroverted child will soon be climbing walls and talking to stowaway spiders (I found one under a windowsill the other day). My introverted child will grow into their bedroom and will become even more recluse, litteraly only coming out for food (more about food later in the post).
The danger of being home-bound for a long time is that family implodes on itself. After a while life becomes like the 1993 movie Groundhog Day. Every day is like a deja vu. I keep telling my vibrant and sponatneous self that the repetiteveness is not bad. Interestingly, it is our survival mechanism! In order to stay mentally strong, humans need to keep finding motivations (however tiny) to face the day. When times are uncertain and the global conditions have the stability of the British weather, we tend to find comfort in rituals.
The word “ritual” might have a slight religious connotation to you, yet what I mean, is any action that has some sense of meaningfulness and regularity about it. Family rituals are extremely important. Daily routines give our babies comfort and the sense of stability. A night time story gives our pre-schoolers reassurance of the firmness of family bond. Our teens will always remember Sunday family walks, even if they had to be dragged to it. Mine do.
Ritual has a power to carry us when we really don’t feel like it. Also, the shared experience brings a sense of commonality, unitedness and greatness (think about family traditions passed down through generations). My family line has been through too much disruption and trauma (wars, genocide, communism, relocations, bankrupcies, family drama to name a few) for any such traditions to survive. Yet, my parents and myself have been dedicated to establish and preserve simple rituals that make our families distinct.
These simple sweet actions (like breakfast in bed for a birthday person) or weekly catch up on Skype with the family abroad, are the life line of sanity. The simple actions still happen, even if it feels like the world is falling apart.One of the new rituals that I find helps us to feel grounded in the pandemic is that everyfamily member picks and cooks a meal on a weekly basis. I am lucky that each of us enjoy cooking and feeding others (actually, I am the least excited one about it, I shared deep reasons for this here).
On the practical level, cooking is a useful skill, but on the subliminal level it is extremely empowering, analytical and resilience-building. Especially, when cooking from scratch, following a multi step recipe or adapting the recipe to the reality of the fridge (or food allergies).
This ritual provides:
a) a line of communication (kids need to ask mum to add the ingredients to shopping list, we express our gratitude and impression from the meal, sometimes we negotiate about the specific day for cooking)
b) makes every child feel valued empowered, because they contribute and feed others (doesn’t need an explanation)
c) creates an event: daughter’s Italian dinner, son’s Mexican style lunch, dad’s famous lasagna. From a functional “topping up on lost calories”, it becomes something to look forward to. Not a chore (it still feels like this for me), but a celebration.
What mini rituals keep you afloat? What value does it create for your family? Lets share and encourage each other in these challenging times. Below is a pic of my teen caught in action (shared with permission).