The family of my childhood was both dysfunctional and unhappy. But both parents had an individual ritual they religiously kept. This could be classed as a family ritual because they both expected us children to partake in this family ritual. They both enjoyed milking cows. They both could lose themselves in the daily silent ritual of milking cows twice a day. There is a lot of repetition in milking cows. There is a lot of silence in milking cows. It is mostly a solitary pursuit. It promotes reflection. Both my parents immersed themselves in the ritual. Neither liked being away from home – my mother especially. Holidays were extremely rare. My mother hated being a woman – she often said this - as her life was not as good as it could have been if she was a man. She wanted to do manly things like driving tractors and milking cows. She was pleased to own a dairy farm. Owning a dairy farm meant that she was able to do most of what she wanted but of course she was expected to do a certain amount of housework which she resented. If she didn't have to do anything in the house – her words - she would have been happy. If she could have – her words – always worked out in the paddocks she would have been happy.
Both parents thought that hard work was good for children. All children were expected to do whatever work was required. There was no stopping until work was finished. This was definitely a family ritual.
It is fair to say that my mother was an unhappy person and this meant that the family was unhappy. My father was a patient man who liked a peaceful existence and always seemed to stand in the background. But he liked the ritualistic and solitary life of a dairy farmer.
They had both come from underprivileged backgrounds and had found themselves suddenly in the position of being able to purchase a viable dairy farm. This was a big step up for both of them. It was fulfilling a dream that both thought could never be realised. So neither was going to anything that would risk them losing the farm. They realised and respected their good fortune.
Growing up in an unhappy family leads you to assume that you will invariably have an unhappy family if indeed you have a family when you grow up.
In my own family we tried to institute family rituals. Timetables for doing homework. Eating at set times. Always playing classical music when traveling in the car.
Mostly these rituals failed to have an impact. Although we did try.
Of course I always had my own personal ritual of going to the football each week. I found this ritual relaxing. A solitary exercise into which I could escape in silence. Something that promoted reflection.
I slowly included my children into this ritual although we did have difficulties from time to time. In time as they grew up we enjoyed going to the football together. Still do.
My own particular family ritual was that I took our children to their first day at school. I cannot recall how this ritual eventuated. Maybe because my wife taught at the school that our children attended. Perhaps she had already worded them up as to how to act on the first day. Whatever it was a family ritual that I took our children to school on their first day.
This was always a bitter sweet experience. This was something I did not want to happen. I knew that time was passing and I could not stop it. I knew that once I handed my child over to the school that a part of them was gone forever. Of course I wanted all my children to stay young forever. I wanted time to stay still. I hated what was happening. I hated waving goodbye to each of them. But I did it.
As I progressed from child to child they became more mature. The first child was brave. The second child was more sure. The third child knew what needed to happen.
I remember every moment. My family ritual.