Making Memories Matters

I found Memory-Making Mom by Jessica Smartt while browsing the shelves at a bookstore near me that was going out of business last year. At a deeply discounted price, I couldn't resist buying it, even though I wouldn't describe myself as someone who focuses a lot on family traditions. But something about it just called to me.

I was pregnant at the time – excited about what the future held but nervous, too. I knew this baby would change our lives in ways we couldn't even imagine, and I was already pondering what that would mean for our older boy. Around the same time, I started working on my 2020 goals. After setting a goal of nurturing my relationship with Nick and our sons, I had to think about what that realistically looked like and how I would live it out. What was I already doing to be intentional within our home and what wasn't working? I started with our 20 in 2020 – a family bucket list for the year. You can read about my heart behind the idea in that post, but it brings us back to this book.

As I was looking over the bucket list at the end of March and re-configuring some of our plans in light of COVID-19, my eyes kept stopping on one specific item. Create a new family tradition. I had no idea what that might be at the time I wrote it, but it felt like something we could do. But when faced with that item on my list, my brain just blanked. Then... I remembered purchasing this book all those months ago. I pulled it off my shelves, flipped through a few pages, and immediately knew it was exactly what I needed to read.

In Memory-Making Mom, Smartt writes, "I want to send my children off with memories for roots, love for wings. I want my children to know they are loved, to know what they believe, and to have the tools they need to succeed." She explains how their family life often felt monotonous while she both envied how her sister's family seemed to have more fun. Until she realized there was nothing stopping them from celebrating more, too. 

Using the word tradition might make it sound fancy or complicated, but Smartt defines it as "a planned determination to remember, celebrate, and value what is important." She's quick to mention that her book is a list of suggestions, not a manual of what to do, and so it's up to you to choose what your family values and what's worth celebrating. I loved how she outlined that understanding why traditions matter will motivate you to do the work and put in the time. I've noticed that with my goal setting this year, too, so that definitely rings true for me. She discusses how traditions offer security, provide comforting memories, make life sparkle, remind us what matters, make our values real, connect us to others, and shower love.

Before reading this book, I probably would have told you that we didn't have a ton of traditions growing up. My narrow definition of the word (and how I mostly associated it with the holidays) made me overlook all the wonderful things we did do repeatedly: trips to Callaway Gardens in October, skipping school on our birthday, getting to sleep in my parents' bed with my mom when my dad traveled, eating dinner together every night, dance parties in the living room, and so much more. Within just a few minutes, memories came flooding back.

After making the case for traditions, Smartt focuses on ten areas you can incorporate them in your family:

Spontaneity, highlighting the joy of new adventures and doing things just because
• Beauty, celebrating beautiful things both inside your home and outside in nature
• Food, like everyday dinners, special celebratory meals, and time together in the kitchen
• Holidays, with ideas for each one and advice on how to plan ahead and choose what's best for you
• Learning, including reading together, family field trips, and instilling curiosity in your kids
• Service, prioritizing doing things for others as a family throughout the year
• Relationships, looking for opportunities to connect with each child individually 
• Work, examining how your kids can work in the home through chores and hobbies
• Rest, such as times of sickness, on Sundays, and during family vacations
• Faith, exploring music, prayer, family devotions, and other faith-focused activities

The author is a Christian and writes from that perspective, which I personally appreciated. If faith isn't a priority for you, I think there are still many suggestions in her book that will work for your family but it is worth noting because she does discuss her faith throughout. I loved how it challenged me to connect the everyday to the spiritual.

It was a lovely, thoughtful read that highlighted things that have been on my heart lately. It was full of inspiration and encouraged me to ponder what I want my boys to remember about our family. Reading through the long lists of ideas didn't overwhelm me or make me feel guilty about what we could have already been doing. Instead, it motivated me. It reminded me that creating traditions requires having a plan. It's work that is worth it because making memories matters. It sounds obvious, sure, but it's so easy to get caught up in the mundane and routine aspects of family life. Purposefully chosen traditions can lead to memories we'll cherish forever. I'm already brainstorming what we'll start doing and know I'll reference this book in the future, too.

So Quotable
"We can celebrate with whimsy. We can make memories. We can create treasured traditions our children will lie in bed and anticipate, tell their children about, long for during college, and cling to in times of sadness. When a special moment arrives, snatch the opportunity and create a memory that is important and lasting."

1 comment

  1. This sounds like a lovely read! I've always cherished the traditions my family has, and I definitely want to create some thoughtful ones of my own someday for my kids.


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