Cathy Madavan believes reinforcing our own family’s values through our unique traditions and routines is vital


This is the time of year where you will find me rummaging at the back of a wardrobe for a box containing a rather random selection of spring and Easter decorations. Our younger daughter has always had a bit of a thing for spring decorating, and over the years we have accumulated quite the array of chicks, fake-grass table runners, rabbits and baskets of eggs. There is, it must be said, nothing classy or ‘Instagrammable’ whatsoever about this garish collection of kitsch clutter. Our ‘tablescape’ will not be adorning the pages of Ideal Home magazine any time soon. It is just something very silly we do, and alongside the highly anticipated Easter egg hunts and obligatory roast lamb after church on Easter Sunday, it has become part of our family traditions.

Regular deposits

Traditions matter more in a family than I probably realised years ago. I certainly didn’t understand in the early days of parenting how important our traditions and regular habits were. I didn’t recognise that these rituals would later become the memories and stories that we would treasure and talk about together. In truth, I would have been far more intentional about it all if I had understood that our rhythms and routines in many ways form and reinforce who we are and what we value as a family.  

It’s fascinating what stays with you over the years. It turns out our daughters don’t remember many of the gadgets and gifts I bought for birthdays but they do remember stories in bed each night, welly walks along the river, chocolate caterpillar cakes bought for every birthday, Saturday pizza and TV nights, board game and jigsaw marathons, discovering their lunchbox sandwiches cut into a different shape each day, and regular fire-pit fun with friends, marshmallows and blankets to snuggle under. Looking back, these are the fingerprints of our family. This is what bonds us together. This is who we are, and these are now the memories we share. 

Our rhythms and routines form and reinforce who we are and what we value as a family

As I began to understand more about how the brain links the memory to these regular relational deposits into our children’s lives, I considered how I could keep creating ordinary but significant moments. When we consistently say or do certain things that we value, we create positive pathways in their lives. And while I have made plenty of mistakes as a mum, with many moments I regret, I still believe it’s a significant role and one which matters more than we sometimes realise. 

Meaningful milestones 

Beyond the rhythms and routines we establish, we can also celebrate key milestones and create stand-out memories to cherish together too. Particularly in the teenage years, where the world is full of comparison and pressure for girls, I asked myself how could I keep building my connection with my daughters and demonstrate their value and worth at key moments in their lives.

For example, when each of them completed their GCSEs I planned an overnight trip somewhere to enjoy something special for just the two of us. I wanted to celebrate their effort and the milestone of leaving school, whatever the results would be. Our daughters are quite different, and as a consequence their choice of trip also differed vastly. Our older daughter wanted to see Chatsworth house where Pride and Prejudice was filmed, and so we did – what fun we had sipping afternoon tea and taking a turn about the grounds pretending to be Keira Knightly! Our younger daughter however, after much consideration, requested a visit to Cadbury World in Birmingham. After all, her love for chocolate is legendary! It took some planning in both cases, but that time we spent together was precious.

With many celebrations like school proms and birthday parties becoming increasingly centred around how girls look and what they wear, it’s great if mums, family members and other significant adults can find ways to celebrate who girls are – their character, their talents and their efforts, perhaps by writing affirming cards. While of course it’s fun to get dressed up and to get hair done, it has probably never been more important to build self-respect and self-esteem in girls, and to intentionally celebrate who they are becoming. 

Celebrating the small things

Of course, expressing love to children is never just about creating extraordinary occasions or spending heaps of money. Our most significant investment as mothers is always our time. It might not cost a lot, but it is worth a huge amount when we leave a note on a pillow or make a picnic to sit and enjoy in the park or the garden. One mum I know used to take her children out for supermarket breakfasts on a Saturday. Most of the time, this regular supermarket date was pretty unexceptional, but just occasionally that was the moment they chose to share significant things they were worried about. Another family I know regularly embarks on camping trips with their kids in a tent in the lounge (well, why not!?) and another mum holds regular baking bonanzas with her children. 

While mums juggle so much, and some seasons of parenting are tougher than others, any good relationship is built a smile at a time, a conversation at a time, an act of kindness at a time and those investments do pay off…in time! When the boundaries are tested and our energy is depleted, it’s easy to wonder if we are making a difference. But the research is clear – parents are always the most significant influence in our children’s lives and the habits, routines, traditions and celebrations we create are building foundations in the lives of our children. I still pray that our home will be the place where our daughters feel safe and celebrated, and where they will choose to return for Easter egg hunts – whatever their age!