“Just because something is traditional is no reason to do it, of course.”
― Lemony Snicket,
There is no mistaking what time of year it is: Clothes, backpacks, and hair all look like they’ve been given a lot of thought, even the messy looking kids have planned the look to make their statement, and the plea comes from every well-meaning parent to stop long enough to take the traditional ‘First Day of School” photo. We stood in front of the mailbox at 125 Lake Crest Lane every fall, and it’s a tradition I’m glad my mother maintained. Traditions are sure to provide one thing: memories. Not all traditions are leaving happy memories in their path, however, and as Lemony Snicket reminds us — of course we mustn’t do something simply because it is a tradition.
I warned my mother that we must avoid the stores selling office supplies this month. Seeing that she wasn’t sure what my reasons could possibly be, I reminded her — Back to School. School supplies sales would be going on, and there would be a full stock of packs of notebook paper, construction paper, pens, pencils, markers, crayons with freshly sharpened tips — you get the picture. Traditionally, she and I have enjoyed stocking up on these items that signaled a new year in the middle of summer, but when our pile of purchases from the past few years is still in good supply, I have come to recognize that this is a tradition that might not be serving us well, anymore.
With another school year beginning, I’d like to encourage some good traditions to begin and maybe to take the place of other not-so-helpful traditions you’ve been clinging to for too long.
- Offer the people in your house and in your classroom (or job) a smile. Passing people wearing scowls as they drive to the nearby school, I can’t help but think of the negativity they (parents, teachers, students) are bringing into someone else’s day. Be less concerned about your child’s clothes and hair and more concerned with the smiles you both wear – a great daily tradition!
- Make listening a new tradition. If you are a parent, stop whatever task you are busy doing and listen to the words your child speaks — is he telling you that he is having a hard time with friends, or is she telling you that she might not make the grades you’re expecting? Listening means hearing more than their words. If you are a teacher, listen to your students as they tell you what they are dealing with at home — telling you through actions and inaction as much as through words. If you are a student, simply pay attention.
- Plan for a good week and a great year. It’s easy to let life get ahead of you and rush through the next to-do item, but planning ahead will bring success and a happier life for everyone around you. The best advice we received in school was from a first-grade teacher who said that kids would struggle if parents weren’t organized — we play a role. I was thankful to learn this lesson of having a plan that left us all feeling more secure in a flexible schedule of play time, meals, homework, and sleep. Failing to plan makes it difficult to plan to succeed.
Traditions are a funny thing — we might brag on the tradition of always hosting the Labor Day picnic but are quick to chide family members who can’t honor the tradition because of … life. Make some new traditions — smiling, listening, planning — and drop the traditions that only serve to add a lot of pressure to everyone’s life. Be untraditional, be unique, be your best you.
Jacques Barzun once said, “Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” Respect each other and take the time to thank teachers – perhaps your new tradition?