Drafting Traditions

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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.

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5 thoughts on “Drafting Traditions”

  1. Our routine is definitely changing, now that the kids are around. Even just the simple logistics, like you mentioned… last Christmas, the kids were only 4.5 months old and still needing to sleep every few hours. Plus, we have an early bedtime. So that nixed several activities. This year, they’re nearly a year and a half and almost down to one nap, so in some ways things are quite a bit easier. But, still. Everything is planned around the nap schedule.

    At the moment, they’re still pretty young to be aware of everything. We do want to light Hannukah candles with them (husband and I are Jewish and raising the kids as such, but I grew up in a Catholic-ish family, so we still do Christmas in Chicago with the fam), and I want to be careful what I teach them regarding Christmas and Santa and all of that. But even though they’re rather young for it all this year, it’s a really good idea to start thinking consciously what we want our traditions to be. Otherwise, I fear we actually *won’t* have as much fun with things that would be nice to celebrate, mostly out of laziness/neglect/oversight.

  2. This is the first year my boys really understand that Santa is coming and bringing presents. We decided the first year that every year the boys get one big gift (first year it was PB chairs, this year it is bikes!), a book, a piece of clothing, and some little treats for their stocking. I want them to open something but it does not need to excessive. I grew up in a house where my mom went crazy at the holidays, and after opening 20 presents they start to lose meaning.

    Instead, I am really hoping to make the holiday about spending time together. We’re all getting new Christmas pjs and will make cookies for Santa together while listening to Christmas music and drinking hot chocolate. Then we will probably watch Yo Gabba Gabba Christmas since that is their favorite. And we will go walk outside to see the luminaries everyone in my town does.

    Oh yeah, for the family members who like to go crazy at the holidays (MIL), I maintain an Amazon wish list of things the boys would like. And my mom is awesome in that she gives us cash to put in their 529s.

    The one thing that has changed is that I don’t really want presents anymore. I just want my three boys and that is enough for me.

  3. Just wanted to mention a book to tuck away for the future. “God Gave Us Christmas” is a sweet children’s picture book by Lisa Tawn Bergren (I think) about the real meaning of Christmas.

    On the same subject, but tangentially – search for “Advent Conspiracy” on youtube.com – it’s a very thought-provoking video on the subject.

  4. LauraC – I like the big gift/little gifts idea. My sister and I had talked about doing that with our kids. We have a family member (who also has kids) that is a splurger (like your MIL, but complicated by cousins as our kids get older). That’ll be interesting. I tried to get my mom to contribute to the 529, but she said that wasn’t “fun”. Sigh!

    Megan – I’ll look up that book and put it on our Amazon wish list! As for Advent Conspiracy, I just came across it on Facebook – thought-provoking indeed!

  5. Since having kids (now age 18 month twins and one seven year old… )
    one big thing has changed: we pretty much refuse to travel anywhere and the holiday is at our house, on our time, for our family unit. If others want to join they need to come to our turf. Our family is out of state anyway, so we save the long trips for NON holiday times which eliminates holiday stress! We will visit family out of state at EASTER, a much more manageable holiday than Christmas with all the trappings. That saves on the packing, hauling, and bringing them to anywhere not child proof. You may find as the twins grow you become more of a nuclear family, your own “unit” so to speak, and you simply cannot haul them around, pack and unpack, for more than one destination per day (TOPS). At least that has been my experience.

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