Traditions bring families together. They strengthen our bonds and create lasting memories for all. But sometimes the memories aren’t exactly the kind you want to cling to. 

Here are five family traditions that never seem to go as planned:

1) Friday Family Movie Night 

The Vision: After a long week running in different directions the whole family gets together to cozy up on the couch and watch a movie.

The Reality: The boys spend twenty minutes debating whether to watch X Men: Days of Future Past or Wolverine. When it looks like their own claws are about to come out I snatch the remote away and decide to teach them a lesson by turning on the first ten minutes of Harold and Maude. They’re all sunshine and harmony after that. 

While mutants invade our television screen, I cuddle up beside them. My mind wanders between thoughts of “It’s so nice that they still let me do this” when suddenly one of them farts loudly and they both start laughing uncontrollably.

2) Choose a Special Glass

The Vision: When a family member has a reason to celebrate something special they get to select one of our fancy colorful glasses for dinner. 

The Reality: While my version of a big accomplishment might be performing in the school play or spending a week at overnight camp for the first time, the kids measure using a different yardstick.

I can burp the whole first half of the alphabet, Mommy – don’t I deserve a special glass?

If one kid gets a special glass then the others start vying for one, too. The line between exceptional behavior and expected behavior quickly blurs.

I didn’t say anything bad about your cooking, Mommy – don’t I deserve a special glass too?

Get real. I think we all know who deserves the special glass around here and you can just go ahead and fill ‘er up.

3) First Snow Day 

The Vision: Right after breakfast the kids gets on their gear and head to the neighborhood hill with their sleds. When they’re good and tired they return home, strip down to their long underwear, and enjoy a steaming cup of hot cocoa.

The Reality: We spend about ninety minutes trying on last year’s snow gear and tracking down two pairs of matching gloves. I nearly throw my back out trying to get all of the sleds out of storage. The kids enjoy a few runs before someone ends up crashing into someone else and all hell breaks loose, culminating in the snowball pelting of the century. 

After drying some eyes and wiping enough snot to fill an Elmer’s glue bottle, I extract the boys from their Gore-Tex and soggy wool. They sit down to mugs of hot cocoa with extra whipped cream. Just as I start thinking “Now this is what snow days are made of” one of them screeches “Owwwww, I burned my tongue” and the fresh hell begins once more. 

4) October Pumpkin Patch 

The Vision: Everyone piles into the car for the short ride to the farm. We quickly zero in on the perfect pumpkins, drink some apple cider, and take a leisurely stroll through the corn maze.

The Reality: The drive takes just a wee bit longer in the rain. Eventually we pull up to a massive field of mud – otherwise known as the Pumpkin Patch. My youngest son has a mental breakdown when he can’t decide between the perfect looking pumpkin and the hideously deformed one. We cheer him up with a trip through the 12 acre corn maze shaped like the state of Washington. Somewhere between the Space Needle and the Coulee Dam we manage to lose the toddler. It suddenly dawns on me that the well touted “4.5 miles of path to explore” is not such a great sales pitch after all.

5) New Year’s Eve: East Coast Style

The Vision: We make cheese fondue for dinner and chocolate fondue for dessert. Even though we live on the West Coast, we get a leg up by celebrating on East Coast time. The kids go to bed early while the grown-ups drink a fine bottle of bubbly.

The Reality: We gorge ourselves on fondue like there’s gonna be a ban on lactose once the clock strikes midnight. Someone mistakes my finger for a piece of pound cake and accidentally stabs it with a freakishly sharp fork. We barely make it to 9 o’clock, crawl into bed immediately after, have horrendous nightmares involving Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper, and wake up the next morning with a fierce fondue hangover.


When it’s my turn to hold the golden leaf at this year’s Turkey Day dinner, I’ll give thanks for family traditions… and paybacks. It warms my heart to know that the kids will one day pass all of this mayhem along to their own loving families.


Jill Ginsberg
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  1. Alison Tedford

    Matching gloves?!? You are already a better mom than me. For socks I say “it’s crazy sock day and you are the lucky only participant. Don’t tell anyone they will be jealous!”. You are hilarious, my friend.

    • Alison, you are totally right, I need to lower my bar before the next snowstorm. 60 mins on matching gloves when they’re just going to be powder covered in seconds? Further proof of the inane things OCD will make a girl do!

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