I remember when my first daughter was born, I asked my mom, “What if she doesn’t want to go to college? Or doesn’t like to travel?” My mom wisely responded, “She will love what you love.” My daughter is very different from me and has interests uniquely hers, but she already talks about going to college and asks when we can go to Paris. Our kids learn to love what we love.
James K.A. Smith addresses these themes in You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. He writes in the context of worship and of the church, but he specifically encourages households to “take an audit of its daily routines” and ask: “What Story is carried in those rhythms? What vision of the good life is carried in those practices? What sorts of people made by immersion in these cultural liturgies?” Children follow models better. They see what we love, what habits we have formed, and they sense our real priorities.
As I reflected on this book, I thought about these key habits that shaped me and how I am intentionally developing them in my home:
1. As far back as I can remember, I could stumble out in the quiet of the morning and find my mother having a quiet time of devotion, open Bible on her lap, journal nearby, often at prayer. In my own life, I lack completeness without this practice. The chaos of young children was hard for me because they kept waking up before I could get my quiet time in and my day felt unsettled. As they have grown older, I’ve not only been able to find this important ritual again, I’ve encouraged them to seek this for themselves by example and in training them to create a quiet space and time for each member of the family, including me.
2. My mother read aloud to my brother and me when we were small. As we grew old we were encouraged to share our reading with her. On family trips, I was designated to read aloud. My mom would have me read to her while she made dinner and did household tasks. I will always treasure the memory of reading aloud to her while she canned pears. (Sadly, the habit of canning fruit didn’t stick.) My own children have a designated rhythm of listening to me read after lunch and before bed. My oldest children have added in their own personal reading, and sometimes I hear “Mom, listen to this!” and know that I’ve achieved this meaningful habit in our home.
3. My dad’s brief stint in the military turned my parents into travelers. At age 7, my parents took my infant brother and me to Germany, The Netherlands, and Switzerland. My dad jokingly used to say: “Worst mistake I ever made, taking you to Europe.” Because after that, I was always trying to get back. But this early international journey propelled me into a love of a travel, an interest in people and culture and history. I married a man who shared this love and we prioritize travel in our family. Whenever we can, we take our children on a trip, particularly to help them understand the things they are studying, to become interested in other people, and to have a deeper understanding of the world.
“Every household has a ‘hum,’ and that hum has a tune that is attuned to some end,” Smith writes. What we love, we practice, and what we practice, we love. What do your daily rituals teach about what matters to you? What and whom do you love?
Photo Credit: All images by Rachelle Reitz.