Deb Elise’s Favorite Family Tradition

Secret HandshakeThis has been a really hard post for me, for some reason.  I keep thinking about different traditions from different times in my life, and I start writing, then delete and start all over again.

But of all the traditions I’ve almost written about, one continues to pop into my head.  I keep passing it over because it’s not the funniest or the most clever… it’s not even original to myself and my family.  And yet I keep coming back to it, so I’m just going to go ahead and run with it.

The Secret Handshake.

My daughter started preschool when she was three.  Up until then, she was home with me.  Sometimes with a sitter as well, if I was writing; but even then, 90% of the time I was there in the house with them.  She and I had tons of one on one time, which was spectacular… but it meant she was not at all pleased about going to preschool.

I know there’s some debate in the momosphere about preschool, but I was sure this was the right thing for her.  It was only for around three hours, three times a week.  And it was an incredibly nurturing and stimulating Montessori school, where the kids learned everything from basic manipulatives, to French, to Shakespeare.  I knew my daughter would benefit not only from the loving education at the school, but also from the socialization.  Though I did the Mom Group thing and arranged playdates, she still had a lot more time with grownups than with other kids her age.

My daughter didn’t buy it.  The first two weeks I took her there, I felt like I was walking her to the gallows.  She wept and wailed and clung to me and begged me not to leave and the minute she was safely delivered and out of eyeshot I cried as hard as she did.  It was awful.

So I did research, and I found The Secret Handshake.  It was something one of the mommy-bloggers had created with her son when she was in the same situation as mine.  They did a special routine every time she dropped him off, and it helped him make the transition.

I liked it.  So we tried it.  I had my daughter come up with the specific moves herself, and I explained that whenever I dropped her off, we’d do the Secret Handshake, and it would be our special way of connecting before we split up for a few hours — a promise that we’d be thinking about each other, and we’d be back together soon.

It worked.  She quickly started feeling better about separating for those few hours.  And even when she was a year older and couldn’t wait to race into preschool and see all her friends, she still always stopped to do the Secret Handshake first, and have that moment of connection before we both went off to do our own things.

My daughter is six and in first grade now, and every morning we still do the Secret Handshake.  I like to think that when she heads off to college we’ll still do it… even if then she’ll want to make sure no one’s watching.

It really is my favorite family tradition.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

~ Deb Elise

14 Replies to “Deb Elise’s Favorite Family Tradition”

  1. I can see you giving her the handshake moments before she walks down the aisle – or on her way to the delivery room to have her own child. What a lovely tradition!

  2. That is a lovely tradition, and a wonderful example of great parenting. Even if it wasn’t your idea to begin with, you’ve made it your own.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m a little verklempt and I need to go sniffle into a tissue.

    1. Miss M also said yesterday that I’m a great parent… “because you let me get away with stuff I’m not supposed to do.”

      Hmmm… not sure that’s really in the “great parent” manual… might have to make some adjustments…

  3. Elise, that is just so sweet…. my youngest will start preschool next year and I may just borrow this idea if we need it. xoxo

    1. Yes yes yes — do it and let me know how it goes!

      OH — when we run the Honolulu Marathon together in 2011 (hint hint) we can give the kids the Secret Handshake when we cross the finish line!!!!

      (Start line would make more sense, but it starts at 5:30am. Yeesh)

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