We consider ourselves a pretty traditional household, well, you know, but for the fact that we’re a two-mom one.
Traditions are especially accentuated during the holidays. For example, for close to eternity, we (my siblings, parents, and more recently, our significant others) have gathered at my mom’s house for Christmas Eve for a mid-day meal, then a visit to my parents’ best friend’s home for their traditional Christmas Eve Party and Feast, and then off to candlelight service and midnight mass. We finish off the evening by returning home and opening gifts (we draw names and we have a spending limit). Christmas Day is spent lounging around and visiting with family. And Jennifer grew up with a whole different set of traditions.
Now, though, we ALL HAVE KIDS.
Which means that Midnight Mass is sooooo not an option. Except maybe for our nephew who wears his carseat like a glove and is content anywhere so long as he’s in it. We, unfortunately, do not have carseat babies. And Baby Jesus would not be happy, people. That Christmas Eve Feast at my mom’s friend’s home? Smack in the middle of bath/bottle/bedtime.
So as we venture into this period of younging-up traditions, Jennifer and I are considering bigger issues as it relates thereto. Like how we go about creating the excitement of Santa while teaching the wonder and awe of Christ’s birth while curbing their appetite for consumerism while instilling an appreciation for the things we DO have, while planting seeds of giving without the expectation of receiving, while making charitable activities – through time, talents, or treasures – a part of life. For us, the holidays simply magnify these bigger lessons, Ways Of Living we hope to instill in our children.
Ok, yes, they are only 8-months old. Eight months old TODAY! (Waaaahhhhh!), but these are weighty topics that take heart-felt communication, compromise, great consideration and prayer. I just don’t want the kid who is all “What did you bring me?” when guests come over. Okay, yeah, I know that up to a certain age, kids are unaware of a world outside their own selves, but I know you know what I mean.
We all want more for our kids than we had. More opportunity, more freedom, more sense of security, more education. But I want to do that without also creating a sense of entitlement – something I see more and more when observing children and adolescents around me. I mean, I want to have the ABILITY to give them everything, but without ACTUALLY giving them everything. All a tricky balance, as I observe it. Because “stuff” is so integral in the self-confidence building and highly-sensitive ecosystem of youth peer groups. It’s finding that middle between I-Know-You-Feel-Lonely-With-No-Friends-But-Think-How-Happy-That-Family-Is-That-We-Took-Gifts-To – Yes,-The-One-You’ll-Never-See-Again and Yay-That-You-Are-In-The-In-Crowd-But-Not-At-The-Expense-Of-Self-Respect-And-Seeing-Outside-Yourself-Long-Enough-To-Help-Others. But the thing is, some one of you may have “That” kid and you are perfectly thrilled for it, a kid with great enthusiasm for gifts who will carry with them the memories of being showered by family and friends. And when I look at in that light, it is not a bad thing!
And that adds a layer of complication, then, as it relates to creating expectations in growing families: honoring ANOTHER’s values and traditions without compromising our own. (This all sounds a bit more extreme and heavy than it is as it rolls around in my head, but you get the picture.)
So this year, all 5 kids (our two (8 months), my sister’s two girls (21 months and 6 months), and my brothers son (5 months)) are too young to know the difference. It’s been interesting this tender communication dance we’ve done with siblings, as we each convey to the other the answer to “What does so-and-so need/want?” Because for now, the only ones interested in the tangible gift itself is the parents. The kids, no doubt, will be happy with the paper and boxes. And a bottle. This creation of traditions, both within our own families, and as it relates to our family in the bigger extended family, is a work in progress.
How have your traditions changed, if at all, now that you have kids? How have things changed from the infancy stage to toddler stage to tween stage, as it relates to gifting/holidays? How do you handle any differences in gifting values when they exist among the other adult-parents in your extended clans?
Rachel’s personal blog can be found at RaJenCreation.