Family Folklore

Every family has its stories.  There are funny stories, sad stories, remarkable stories and just plain old stories.  The stories are familiar and make family members feel connected in a very special way.

In my family we have a collection of stories that have become family folklore.  The telling of these stories often begins with “Tell me about the time…”.  It is remarkable to me that we can tell the same stories again and again and they don’t get old or boring.

As a child, my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles introduced me to the joy of family folklore.  I heard reverent stories and hilarious stories.  According to family folklore, my paternal great, great grand-father was a lighthouse keeper in Ireland.  The stories about him share insight into a different time and way of life.  In contrast, one of my favorite stories is about my maternal grandfather, whom I adore, taking his children out for iced cream.  As the story goes, he reached a point of such frustration with the bad behavior of his kids that he kicked the running board of his car as he was holding a tray of iced cream.  He unfortunately missed hitting the running board with his foot and hit it with his shin – ouch!  In pain, he threw the tray of iced cream up over his head.  In disbelief, my mother and her siblings watched the iced cream fly through the air and fall to the ground.  I love this story about my mom, her siblings and her father.  It is so real.  Stories connect generations.

I now hand down stories to my children from my youth.  Sometimes my stories are serious.  Sometime my stories are silly.  But my stories make the personalities of the older generation in our family more vivid.  My kids and niece and nephew giggle in delight when my brother and I recount crazy tales of our childhood.  It is fun for them to envision their parents, aunts and uncles as little kids.

My favorite nights are when I am sitting at dinner with my kids and they request to hear the stories of their births.  The fact that I can tell each of their personal stories, rich with detail, makes them feel incredibly important.  As parents, we all do this.  Jamie Lee Curtis captures this idea beautifully in her book, Tell Me Again About the Night I was Born.  In this book, a parent tells the story of her child’s birth.  The child knows the story by heart and asks immediately to hear it told again.  As the book ends, you know that the ritual of telling this story is core to fiber of their family.

I also love recognizing when we are making a family folklore moment.  When he was 4 years old, my youngest son bought a fishing lure with his own money.  On his first cast, with the new lure, he hooked the most enormous snapping turtle that you have ever seen.  We reeled in the turtle, took pictures and salvaged the lure.  It was wild.  And we retell the story all the time.  The memory of the event will never be lost because it has become part of our book of family folklore.

Be conscious of the value of family folklore.  Oral tradition has existed since the beginning of time to share history.  Share stories with your kids and capture memories when they are being made.  Story telling has defined entire cultures.  Take the opportunity to create a culture of connectedness in your own family through family folklore.

Mommy Wars Reignited: One Size Does Not Fit All – by guest author Laura Lane

Lately, I’ve been following the controversy surrounding the U.S. release of Elisabeth Badinter’s book TheConflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. I haven’t been able to get a copy of the book yet, but the description says:

Now, in an explosive new book, she points her finger at a most unlikely force undermining the status of women: liberal motherhood, in thrall to all that is “natural.” Attachment parenting, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and especially breast-feeding—these hallmarks of contemporary motherhood have succeeded in tethering women to the home and family to an extent not seen since the 1950s.

As I read reactions to her book online, I thought about how we often make blanket proclamations about what is best for mothers and children without taking into account individual circumstances and experiences. When it comes to making decisions as a parent, I firmly believe one size does not fit all.

For example, I read an article where the writer, a mom, says “of course, we all know breast is best.” My children might disagree. As babies, their tiny mouths couldn’t latch onto my inverted nipples, and, even if they had been able to grasp on, there was precious little milk to be had. For my children, breast wasn’t even possible, let alone the best option.

I grieved over the fact that I couldn’t nurse my daughter or son, and when pumping didn’t go well either, I felt I had failed my children badly. When I broke down and poured my heart out to a wise mother she said, “All you can do is your best in any given moment. Ignore everything you read or hear about how to be a good mother or raise your children. Trust your own instincts.”

My husband also reminded me of how we can get so focused on the risks and benefits of one decision that we lose sight of the bigger picture. He reassured me a thousand times that having a happy, relaxed bottle-feeding mother was important to our children’s wellbeing too.

I’m not trying to advocate bottle feeding over breastfeeding. I’m simply saying that what’s best for one mother might not work for the next, and to proclaim that one way of having or raising children is better than another only engenders anguish, anger, and envy among mothers. I think weal have areas where we feel we’ve failed our kids or haven’t measured up. For me, not being able to breastfeed was a huge loss. I’ve talked with other moms who mourn having to go back to work or moms who feel guilty because they are unhappy staying at home and miss the excitement of their careers.

Being a mother hits you over the head with the fact that nothing is perfect, and there are always tradeoffs with every decision that’s made. I often remind myself that I know many wonderful people who did not have perfect mothers, and yet they turned out fine, better than fine actually. So whether it’s breast or bottle, co-sleep or crib, work or stay at home, maybe the most important thing is to do what feels right for our children, ourselves, and our families and let the rest go.

For more from Laura Lane visit

Family Dinner: What to Bring

The evidence is quite conclusive.  Family dinner is a good idea.  It is not easy to make it happen but we know we should.   My house is wild with after school activities.  But even in the mayhem of four children in several directions, family dinner happens.  It is not always the perfect picture of a family, at home, around a dining room table, laden with delicious food.  Sometimes it is just me, with some of my kids, sharing a pizza at a table in a hockey rink.  But regardless of the venue, there are a few things to bring to a family dinner to make the experience worthwhile for everyone.

Communication:  Pretty obvious.  Check in on the day.  Let everyone be heard – even the very littlest family members.  Make it a game.  We sometimes play Butterflies and Bees at our dinner.  This game allows each person to share the best and worst parts of their day.   Everybody shares.  Talking and connecting as a family is critical.  It helps to relieve the burden of problems.  It makes people feel calm and safe.  And on good days, communication often leads to laughter.

Education:  Bring a new idea to the table to share and encourage your kids to do the same.  It could be a piece of news to discuss.  It could be a meaningful conversation on a tough topic:  drugs, discrimination, honesty, or nutrition. In parenthood, every moment is a teaching moment.  And a captive audience, at the dinner table, is a wonderful time to share new thoughts.  The art of conversation is itself an education.  It is a skill that requires listening, patience, creativity and confidence.  It needs to be practiced.  And there is no better place to practice than at family dinner.

Ideation:   Families are mini-organizations.  They have problems to solve and opportunities to create.  Use family dinner as a time to ideate.  “What can we plant in the garden?”  “How can we get one child to  lacrosse and one to soccer at exactly the same time?”  Engage your children to problem solve and innovate with you.

Celebration:  The best part of family dinner is celebrating.  Gathering together creates a forum for recognition.  The celebration can be small.  But take the time to notice the good deeds of your kids, your spouse and whoever else may be part of your family dinner.  My youngest son and I spent time on Sunday volunteering at a local lake to prepare its facilities for the summer.  We had many projects.  One of our projects was shoveling sand.   Tiring work.  But my seven year old son stuck with it until we had shoveled a huge sand pile into wheelbarrow loads for other uses.  I was the only member of our family to witness his efforts.  But at family dinner, I told the story of his hard work.  He beamed with pride.

Make time for family dinner.  Don’t worry about the menu or the venue. There are more important things to bring.