Are you good at celebrating?
It may sound strange, but celebration doesn’t come naturally for me. I’m the kind of person that likes to stay in motion. Performance can drive me forward. If I meet a goal, rather than pausing to celebrate, I look ahead and begin instinctively pushing my way towards the next goal. Or fear can drive me sideways. If something good happens, I neglect to celebrate because “what if something goes wrong,” and instead I stay focused on what I can control.
I throw birthday parties for my kids, I put up a Christmas tree, and I hide Easter eggs at Easter time. It’s not the big holidays that trip me up; it’s the little moments, the little opportunities that slip past unnoticed.
One of the values that our family has is “fun.” We want to create a family culture where joy, laughter, silliness, and fun are prized. We want our kids to enjoy growing up in our house, and lately, I’ve been thinking that celebrating is another key to this part of culture shaping.
I’ve been studying the current master of celebration in our house- our 4.5-year-old. Celebration should have been her middle name. She is all about throwing parties and giving gifts and celebrating the very little things. She has convinced us that her stuffed animal “Stuffy” keeps growing up and needing birthday parties (odd how every Saturday he seems to get another year older!). She once decided we needed to throw a party for the clock in her room. And she loves to give gifts— most rest times, you can find her making cards and gifts for people, writing special notes or wrapping up regular things and making them irrevocably special.
It’s funny, but even though these celebrations are mostly nonsense, they bring so much joy and silliness to our family. All of a sudden we are making donuts and lighting a candle and singing to her stuffed animal, or feigning excitement over receiving a wood block in a present bag.
I’ve come to fall in love with the idea of celebrating— celebrating big holidays, certainly, but celebrating little milestones, celebrating small steps, celebrating even imaginary things.
On a more grown-up level, I’ve been asking myself: What are the little accomplishments or changes in my family that I can recognize? How can I build up my friends and family by celebrating them? And how can I push aside my goal-oriented, fear-avoiding personality to see and cherish these things?
Last fall we brought our third child home from the hospital, and I decided this would be a good chance to try our hand at celebrating a moment that we wouldn’t usually pause for. So a few days after we got home, we had a family celebration. We all ate breakfast together at the table and had a “ceremony” where we honored the boy that joined our family and we “promoted” our girls to big sisters. It was simple— eating cinnamon rolls and speaking and praying words of encouragement over each child. It took all of five minutes. But to me, it felt profound. Rather than just coasting into our life as a new family of five, we commemorated the change, and we honored the people who were changing alongside us.
During Advent (the weeks leading up to Christmas), we celebrated by lighting a candle each night (okay, most nights) during dinnertime, and sometimes reading something together. It was simple but somehow magical and marked the season.
And sometimes celebrations in our house lately have simply looked like words of affirmation— noticing when someone has done something and celebrating him or her. Honoring an achievement. Honoring someone’s character. Honoring a moment.
It is everything that Pinterest is not. Nothing is color coordinated and there are no cute activities. But perhaps that is what makes it doable— the magic is in the simplicity.
Sometimes we celebrate the birth of a sibling. Sometimes we do a celebration dance for a great potty training day. And sometimes we celebrate the birthday of a stuffed animal. But in all of these cases, we are pausing and injecting a little levity into our lives, a little bit of “I see you and I see what is important to you” into the souls of our children. And though it may be little, it feels very profound.
So rather than see celebration as another thing to add to your to-do list, I would invite you to celebrate the ways that you are already great at celebrating. How do you honor the little things your kids do? How do you recognize the little accomplishments that feel inconsequential, but are big to them? I’m sure that if you paused for a moment, you might find you already do many of these things naturally! And if you’re like me, a planner who rarely celebrated outside of big holidays, consider starting small. Maybe make a special family handshake or a “great day” silly dance. Celebration is not a task to be checked off, and it’s not required, but it sure can be fun.