When parents ask what is the best way to connect with their kids I have a simple answer: Tradition.
When I spent the first holiday season hanging around my then-boyfriend’s parent’s house, I noticed his three little sisters stayed home one day from school and made fancy crafts with their mom to give out as gifts to teachers and friends.
They all stayed in pajamas and spent nearly the whole day together enjoying each other’s company and checking off something on the endless holiday to-do list.
I thought that seemed like a cool idea and vowed to somehow include it in my life if I ever had kids.
Fast forward 15 years. I’m married to that boyfriend and our oldest child is officially in school. Her younger brothers are only in preschool but I decide to start the playing hooky tradition anyway.
I have two boys to my mother in law’s three cooperative girls, so melted wax and essential oils all over my kitchen for homemade candles didn’t feel like the best idea for us.
Also, I’m not nearly as crafty as my mother in law, so at first I wasn’t quite sure what the day off would entail besides staying in pajamas on a school day.
Turns out, I may not be crafty, but I do bake a mean triple-chocolate chip cookie and thus Hooky Cookie Day was born.
Every year since then, I have kept my kiddoes home from school on the same day. Every year my kitchen is over run with sugar and flour and more mess than I ever could have imagined.
Those early years were exhausting. Every year, when I handled everything and the littles were merely cute sous chefs making not-so-little-messes, I questioned why in the world I was maintaining this tradition! Somehow though, I kept it up.
There was laughter and so much conversation between us that I know I would never would have had those moments if I didn’t intentionally set aside the day for them.
In the busyness of life, I can always count on one day every year where I get to slow down, really listen, and absorb the wonderful people they have become. I learn more about them every year and I love every minute of it.
And it’s not just me. A few years ago when my oldest started high school, I thought maybe it was the end of Hooky Cookie Day. My kids revolted. They demanded we make something work and not just so they could get the day off of school.
They truly wanted to spend the day together. They wanted to make the three different kinds of cookies and wrap them in a billion bags to give out to neighbors and teachers the next day.
They also wanted the laughter and conversation that they’d come to count on in all the years we’d had this tradition.
Turns out, the ritual of our day meant just as much to the teenagers as it did to me. It wasn’t just an excuse to play hooky (I’m sure that helps) but also a beloved ritual of their childhood that meant more to them than I could ever know.
When I had little babies, I dreamed of having close relationships with them as they grew. Turns out, messy baking was one way to make that happen.
This year, as we get ready to send our oldest mini-baker off to college, we’ve already made plans to schedule HC Day when she’s home on break. She may not get to play hooky, but we’ll all still get to keep our special day.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.