The Cox Family: Creating Meaningful Traditions for a Strong Family

Meg Cox has worked for the Wall Street Journal for 17 years now and is the author of, The Book of New Family Traditions, a book dedicated to helping families form heartfelt and meaningful traditions.

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"I didn't get to be a mother until I was 40, so I really feared I would miss out on motherhood and the chance to build a close family of my own. . .there is nothing like the love and support of the people who know you best in the world, and love you despite your eccentricities and frailties."

Can you introduce me to your family? Meg: I am Meg Cox, and my family includes my husband Richard and our son Max. I think of my step-daughter Kate, her husband Will and daughter Kate as part of our family, but they don’t live with us.

Why is your family important to you? Meg: Both of my parents have been dead for some years and I didn't get to be a mother until I was 40, so I really feared I would miss out on motherhood and the chance to build a close family of my own. All the people in my family are strong individuals who like their fair share of solitude, but there is nothing like the love and support of the people who know you best in the world, and love you despite your eccentricities and frailties.

thankful tree copy

"Once I got married and started to think about kids, I thought about especially close families I knew and realized that traditions were at the core of their relationship. When I got pregnant, I started interviewing families all over the country that had wonderfully creative and meaningful rituals for my first book, The Heart of a Family."

Where did your love of traditions begin? Meg: Into my 30s, I was pretty much focused on my journalism career and hadn't met the right person with whom to start a family. But once I got married and started to think about kids, I thought about especially close families I knew and realized that traditions were at the core of their relationship. When I got pregnant, I started interviewing families all over the country that had wonderfully creative and meaningful rituals for my first book, The Heart of a Family, published by Random House in 1998.

Why are traditions important for families? Meg: Traditions are the actions that speak louder than words: they demonstrate in very clear ways the values and passions of a given family. Many traditions are centered around the religious faith of the parents, and they also tend to reflect their heritage and passions. The reason for paying attention to what you celebrate and how you celebrate it is that traditions are a memorable (and often theatrical) way to pass these values and beliefs on to your children. One quick example: parents who feel it is important to raise children who are compassionate and giving will make sure that a holiday such as Christmas isn't about getting presents, but about creating occasions where the children can give of themselves.

The special box.

Where did I find the information for my book? Meg: Yes, it has been a massive project that is the culmination of many years of research, interviews and writing.The Book of New Family Traditions is a new edition of a book that first was published in 2003, and in the decade since, I have continued to look for families all over the country with fresh ideas for rituals and celebrations. I work with religious educators, psychologists and others, and I hear from families through my website,www.megcox.com, and a special Facebook page on tradition, www.facebook.com/TraditionsBook. In the new edition, I wanted to place less of an emphasis on big holidays and things like birthdays and more on everyday traditions like bedtime and dinnertime, as well as problem solving rituals.

What is your favorite family tradition? Meg: Wow. That is such a hard question and the answer has changed as my son has grown out of some rituals. But I have to say that a lot of our special traditions focused on making books and reading a special treat, and we had a Christmas tradition of taking all the Christmas books we own and wrapping them like gifts. As the days count down toward the holiday, my son would get one wrapped book to open, and we would read it together. A more recent one I love is what I did for my son's high school graduation: I had been asking teachers to write a letter to his future self starting in first grade, and I gave him a box of all these secret letters, along with letters from family members, when he graduated. He was stunned, and thrilled. (here is a link to a blog post I wrote about that: http://megcox.com/2013/06/got-a-toddler-do-this-now-for-a-memorable-high-school-graduation/)

heart book for max

"The daily rituals such as nap time, bath time and bedtime are initially much more important to think about than birthdays and holidays. They give your kids a sense of security, comfort and identity."

If you could give a piece of advice to new parents, what would that be? Meg: Don't neglect those built-in traditions across the years where everybody gets together and simply talks and shares: if you don't get in the habit of doing this when they are young, you'll never know what's going on when they get caught up in school and activities, and especially enter the teen years. Make it fun, provide treats, but start this expectation of together time when they are quite young. Also, the daily rituals such as nap time, bath time and bedtime are initially much more important to think about than birthdays and holidays. They give your kids a sense of security, comfort and identity.