March Madness is infectious isn’t it? I usually have no patience for televised sports, but I can’t resist the drama of college basketball: the heartbreak, the elation of an upset, the tribes of diehard fans.
I’m not a diehard myself, yet I’m surprised by how excited I feel when the Duke Blue Devils take the court. It’s the same feeling I get when I drive by my old high school, the “Home of the Tigers.” It’s silly really, a grown woman’s heart beating faster when she thinks of a mascot.
Blame my parents. When I was growing up, we were the Hamilton Honeybees. Yes, we had a family mascot.
No one remembers exactly how the mascot came to be. My parents thought a family cheer would be nice, and then somehow it grew out of that. My mom liked that honeybees worked hard, and my dad liked the alliteration of Hamilton Honeybees.
“Like so many other things in life,” my dad admits, “the mascot sort of happened by the ‘we swerved into it’ method, rather than as a result of deliberate thought.”
I’ve thought about that a lot. I try to do a lot of “deliberate” activities to define our family. Yet a family’s culture is hard to define. Some families have plaques with mottos or a family vision statement to try to capture it, and I think that’s great, but I’m also with my dad. So much of family life just happens. We can try to define it and give it a focus, but it’s what we do as a family that creates that culture–not just what we say.
Sometimes we have to embrace the surprise and spontaneity of family life–the things we “swerve into.” And that’s where the family mascot comes in.
Admittedly, our choice of mascots was deliberate. My husband and I decided we’d be the Roos Kangaroos. It fits our family. Kangaroos are funny and hoppy. They look good on a T-shirt. They have that weird pouch that probably smells. They are vaguely exotic. More than anything, our last name, Roos, is right in their name!
Since becoming the Roos Kangaroos, we’ve created lots of great memories, some the result of deliberate planning, others the result of spontaneous silliness:
We made themed T-shirts for our anniversary and wore them bowling.
Each week for Family Night, we choose a “Head Kangaroo” who gets to wear said creepy mask and dance around to launch the festivities. The Head Kangaroo also gets to choose a dessert, and while we eat the yummy treat, we all tell the Head Kangaroo what we love about him or her.
So, you see, it’s not really about the mascot–it’s more about the memories that having a mascot creates. It invites us to do playful things, to act on those instincts that ultimately become the traditions that define what kind of family we are.
And, as with all things in life–you gotta go all in. A family mascot is not for the faint of heart, the easily embarrassed, or the natural cynic. For that matter, neither is motherhood.
I want my kids to feel a sense of belonging. It’s why I tell them family stories. It’s why we celebrate Passover and Easter. It’s why I make them the same raisin-filled cookies my grandma used to make.
I want them to know that what they do, here and now, is part of a larger story– that who they are started long before they were born. Most of all, I want them to believe deeply that they are a part of a whole and that they will never be alone in this sometimes lonely, disconnected world.
I suppose I could laminate this sentiment on a piece of paper and stick it on the fridge, or I could just take down the kangaroo mask and do a little dance. I hope when my kids get older and someone asks, “What’s your family like?”, they’ll reply, “Well, we’re the Roos Kangaroos!”
Question: What traditions have you “swerved into”? How do these activities define your family? If you were to choose a family mascot, what would it be?
Challenge: This week, embrace the unplanned moments that bring your family together. These may be the beginnings of new traditions!