In today’s busy world, we sometimes push aside things that are important to us—like family time and traditions. Blogger, author and former teacher Jessica Smartt believes that making memories is the missing piece in today’s families.
As the mother of three, she’s worked to build new traditions in her own family and make those moments more meaningful. Her book, Memory-Making Mom: Building Traditions That Breathe Life Into Your Home, looks at how even the busiest family can rethink their day-to-day activities and create memory-making traditions.
She joined us on the Live Happy Now podcast to talk about why these traditions are so important and how we can start creating them in our own families.
Live Happy Now: What made you want to write a book about traditions and creating memories?
Jessica Smartt: I think for a long time I sort of felt angsty and guilty, that I wasn’t fun enough and our house was kind of lame. I didn’t quite know how to fix it and it just kind of dawned on me one day [while] talking to an older gentleman who is on the other side of parenting, how powerful traditions are. They’re like the missing link between what we care about and how to make it actually happen.
Everybody has a tradition from their childhood that they remembered. They’re always different and you know, sometimes they’re the funniest things that stick out to people, but it’s really powerful for kids and for parents too.
JS: Well, I’d be lying if I said that it was always easy because it’s not. What’s easy is to sit on your phone and scroll. But at the end of the day, no one lays their head on their pillow and thinks, "That was a great 20 minutes I spent scrolling Instagram. I’m so glad I did that."
But you do say, and I know this from experience, "I’m glad I played that game of Candy Land for the 20th time” or "I’m glad I played catch with my son in the front yard." While it’s not easy, it’s so satisfying. Putting these things into action is a way of choosing the intentional life that really gives us satisfaction and peace. That’s step one. Step two is—I think I have kind of made it a little bit easy with my book—I always say if you’re starting out, pick a couple of things that matter to your family. With your kids, if they’re old enough, come up with a way to implement that. The amazing thing is kids really remember and so they will actually never forget and will remind you forever for the rest of your life if that helps.
LHN: What does it do for us as a family when we intentionally set about making memories?
JS: Childhood under our roof is so short and so quick. Number one is, you’re giving them things they need with these memories. It supports us, it bolsters us up, it gives us confidence, it gives us a sense of stability and it tells us who we are.
It does so many things that we don’t even realize it. Even little silly ones, you know? Doughnuts every Saturday with dad. That’s doing something on a level that I think we don’t always give it enough credit and then part two is, it tells your family members that they matter.
For parents who are so overworked and so busy, this is a way of saying I choose us and you matter. It’s amazing, it really works to say, “We’re all going to hop in the car right now and go to the zoo.” Their faces light up like and you can tell it’s like, “We’re doing this together, we matter. Mom and dad actually like us. They’re not just dragging us around because they have to.”
LHN: It does change the way that they see the adult world because they’re used to seeing us work and come home and we’re tired and we’re on our phones, we’re on our laptops…so this can kind of changes the way we are seen by them.
JS: Exactly. That’s powerful for me to think you know, talk about technology in a couple of years, my kids are going to have phones and they’re learning right now by watching me how to act with technology, you know?
They’re seeing if I have hobbies outside. They’re seeing what I do at dinner. They’re seeing if I look people in the eye and you know, they learn much more from what we’re doing than what we’re saying and so this is a concrete way of saying, here’s what matters to us as a family. We’re important and making memories is important and here’s our values.
I always fail, I’m not the perfect memory-making mom, but at least now I have the goal. I know what I’m shooting towards.
LHN: Obviously it benefits kids greatly, but what has it done for you as the parent to implement traditions?
JS: Well, a big part of it for me, as I said, was just making me feel more confident that I am doing this thing, certainly not perfectly, but a little closer in that direction.
That’s a really good, powerful feeling that you kind of have, like you just said, your goal that you’re shooting towards. You know it’s been enjoyable. We’ve made some really fun memories and it is fun as a grown-up to do all this stuff that gives us life, like hiking mountains or going on vacation.
LHN: You do a great job in this book of giving us ideas. How does someone start deciding what’s right for their family?
JS: There are a ton of ideas in the back. And this summer I’m launching a free bullet journal where you can kind of jot down in different categories to what your particular goals are.