I’m snuggled in my fluffy blue robe with a cup of coffee at the kitchen table early on a Sunday morning as my husband snores gently upstairs and the children watch Finding Nemo on the tiny dvd player in their bedroom, their Sunday morning treat so mommy and daddy get to sleep in. (Don’t get me started on the guilt of not sending them to Sunday school or of us not scurrying to get ready for church, put on our Sunday frocks and get the pot roast in the oven so it will be ready and the house will be fragrant when we get home for lunch.)
The traditions and rituals of my childhood fill me with the fondest of memories. They are not, however, the traditions and rituals of my present family, and I am coming to the conclusion that this is okay.
My students and I have been studying cultures in our year six class: we’ve been studying what makes up cultures, along with belief systems, values, and traditions and rituals. This unit always cracks my heart open a little further, forcing me to evaluate what it is I believe and what I would like us to embrace as a family.
One of the reasons I left organized religion (Christianity, in my case) in my late 20s was because I could not accept the exclusivity of it and the teaching that there was only one way to truth, everlasting life, whatever. Much of the other teaching, I readily accept and incorporate into my life, but I understand, that as a full-on, evangelical Christian, I no longer qualify. Not even close.
As a somewhat compulsive traveler and someone who has lived abroad for almost half my life now, I see the devotion and absolute belief with which people practice their religions and spirituality and I can have no doubt that they, too, are on the right track.
For me: absolutely, I believe in a Higher Power and in goodness and that the God-force (I still have no good word for it and I truly don’t want to offend anyone.) is in all of us. If that sounds airy-fairy or you take issue with that, so be it. I’m not interested in emails trying to persuade me of anything different or to lure me back to my Mennonite roots or to tell me I am a prodigal daughter or a Whitman wannabe. I have nothing but respect for the love people have for God and how it enables them to live their best lives, impact people and make a difference in the world. My Christian friends and family have very much respected my parallel, but not the same, path and for that I am very grateful.
But here’s what I want for my children and our family:
- To be actively making the world a better place DAILY through our actions. Also, to be having ongoing discussions about this and to be planning how and what we can do as a family in our community and more globally.
- For us to be grateful, to talk about what we are grateful for every single day, to give thanks, and to be sure we are actively helping those less fortunate than ourselves.
- For us to be establishing our own rituals and traditions around practicing kindness and being together. For example, we eat dinner together every single night but Friday, mommy and daddy’s date night (another tradition that we relish). We are lucky that we are both teachers and have similar hours, and that we are blessed to have a wonderful “auntie” here in Hong Kong who fixes us beautiful food and helps us keep our lives and our house organized so we can give all of our non-work time to one another. This is a privilege most people in the world do not have, and we are deeply grateful for it, mostly because it allows us to have more authentic, one-on-one family time together.
- To be okay with our traditions and rituals being in a state of flux. To carry on with, adapt, change, abolish or improve on what we’re doing now. To allow our children input into how our traditions and rituals will evolve.
- To respect and involve our bicultural roots in our rituals and traditions. We are an international family: my husband is American; our children are Chinese; I am Canadian; we live in Hong Kong. It’s important for us to create our own family culture that acknowledges who we are as individuals, who we are as a family and how we can embrace all of our differences and find our commonalities as well.
- To expose our children to all belief systems and to let them choose the path they want to take. Meantime, to model open-mindedness, compassion and respect for all philosophies and religions.
- To help our children come to some conclusions, over time, that while beliefs may differ, values are what bring us together and keep us together.
- To practice kindness. Always.