Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tradition, tradition

Every year the holiday season inevitably sets off a torrent of...well, lots of things. Stress. Anticipation. Stress. Exhaustion. Stress. Joy and magic? Yes, but honestly, most of that is limited my kids' squeals of shock and awe during the 15 minutes of paper-shredding-frenzy that is Christmas morning. Same for everyone, right? Lots of stress and work for a few moments of unmitigated joy.

Why such a pessimistic grinch, you ask? I don't think I am, really; just a realist. But the holidays do have a way of shining a light on an issue I've struggled with for some time now: a lack of reliable traditions. For years, like most folks, we did the same thing--went to my parents' house. But as they got older and found it difficult to host the growing clan in their small home, things changed...some years for the better, some not, but never into something consistent. I hear people talk all the time about how they always go to Aunt Marian's for Thanksgiving and their sister-in-law Sue's for Christmas Eve. It's been many years since I've had an "always" for these such occasions. And it can be a bummer.

So you can imagine I've really taken it to heart that my older son, through no mom-driven osmosis (I keep my thoughts on this quiet around him) has turned out to be as tradition-bound as I am. Perhaps it has a greater meaning in the context of his nearly teenage mind, I'm not sure, but he is borderline obsessed right now with what we "usually" do. So I've had to explain that due to various circumstances, many beyond our control, we don't do the same thing every year. It might be nice to know what to count on, I tell him, but on the other hand, it could become routine, which is something I do hear from friends who are stuck year after year listening to Great-Uncle Jim prattle on about prices in the 1930s. And then I try to emphasize the same things we DO do every year. We eat turkey--somewhere! The day after Thanksgiving, we go to the movies. On Christmas, we wake up in our own house. And on New Year's Day, we splurge on a nice dinner. (OK, we just started that a year ago and it didn't go very well, but dammit, traditions have to start somewhere.)

So lo and behold, as is a great gift of parenthood, teaching him has taught me too...or if not quite yet, it has helped me chill a little. Traditions take time, right? And they're not carved in stone. There's no magic to "always," is there?

To leave this on a fun note, post your favorite holiday tradition, or the one you'd most like to get out of if you could. I do like the day-after-Thanksgiving kids' movie and may insist on it long past the point when the boys are interested.

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing how quickly traditions take hold. To my 7-year-old, we "always" spend New Year's Eve with her godfather and his family. Honestly, this will be the third year (though her dad and I used to hang out with said godfather on the odd New Year's before she was born.) We have a great meal, enjoy exchanging Christmas presents for the kids, and then have a full blown, full house, nerf gun battle. You heard me right, nerf guns. For all. The adults laugh as hard as the kids and we can't wait. :)

    Other than that--the usual "holiday with family" stuff. I love your tradition of a movie the day after Thanksgiving--we used to do that when we were teenagers, but not in years. Maybe have the kids brainstorm things they'd like to have as traditions? Or with whom they'd like to spend it. :)