Friday, June 8, 2012

Little girls and tea

I am a proud father of three kids. Twin boys who are 8 years old and tri-lingual (English, French and Dutch) and a little three year old girl who has turned each and every one of our house rules upside down. A Persian/Punjabi princess in the making? I hope not.

Hold the above paragraph while I start a new thread with this question: Do you know the difference between ritual and routine? Here is one explanation. And here is another that I wrote about some time ago. And you really need to understand the difference if you are a researcher. Everything we do is either ritualised or routine. And ritualised consumption or the ability to stimulate a ceremony around consumption is a very powerful thing. Think Haagen Dazs ice cream and an episode of Friends. Think Mars bar melted in the microwave before being eaten, slowly and indulgently, with a spoon. These are rituals where the ceremony created around consumption is more important than whatever is being consumed. And a brand will get bonus points, or brand stickiness, if they trigger the discovery of a ritual without giving explicit instruction. It won't be a discovery if instructions are given on the pack. And melting Mars bars is such a discovery. And discoveries are powerful because people take ownership of, share and make them part of their existence.

Now back to my three year old. Her name is Lila and she is the most beautiful girl in the world. This afternoon I was watching her closely. Closely because she had decided she wanted a cup of Iranian tea for the very first time after watching us drinking. My wife made some extremely weak tea for her. Next she wanted some sugar cubes. I was about to drop two in her cup when she shreiked for me to stop.

"I do it!"

Ok, you do it. Then she wanted a spoon. She didn't want me to stir her tea. She wanted to stir her own tea. And she stirred very carefully until all of the sugar had dissolved. I then made before taking a sip so it would cool. She waited patiently until I gave her the nod. She took a sip before exhaling a satisfied and very Indian sounding Aaaaaaahhh!

I looked at my wife and smiled. I had just witnessed the birth of a ritual. Lila's very own ritual. It was around stirring the tea... herself and waiting for it to cool before taking that first sip. There I had it. The start of Lila's first obvious ritual around a food or drink. Amazing. I tried to film it, but the moment had passed. I now wonder how this ritual will evolve. Will it remain the same? Will other foods become part of it? Will it disappear?

I will report back to you.



  1. What a wonderful post! It’s amazing (and cute!) when such young children exhibit much care and detail into something we don’t even pay attention to for ourselves. My toddler has developed a ritual of his own: being very much into those little metal cars, he carefully separates them from his pile of toys and lines them up by size and type of car; being careful not to disturb the furniture the trail will cross.

    1. Lining up his cars is exactly what Siavash, middle in photo, used to do as toddler. Kourosh, left, never saw the pint... :-)