Today my boss came up and asked my co worker and I if we had any Christmas traditions we passed on from our families of origin to our current families. My co worker sang stories from a book and lovingly created these for her brand new daughter as she beamed with pride. I felt awkward because no one really knows my family of origin at work as I don’t talk about them. My stories from Christmas were well to be honest not nice at all and there was no way I was passing them on so I sort of sat for a minute not saying anything. My boss pressed me again and I said no my original family really didn’t have any traditions so no I had nothing really to pass on to my kids. But then I thought about the memories I do make with the kids.
See when my kids came to me I didn’t know how to do Christmas. I knew what my parents did and knew I never wanted that for my kids so I was totally lost when it came to making memories. My brilliant therapist at the time said to me “Look Christmas memories are what you make of them. You can create your own with your kids and make those the traditions going forward.” I thought long and hard on it because truly I was not sure if she was telling the truth. It seemed too simplistic but as I read articles on foster and adopted kids and the holidays I realized that really it was that easy so I tried a few things and some worked some did not.
I tried midnight mass that was a bomb. The kids were cranky and miserable and soon I was too. I tried Santa brings all the presents but then M1 said “Well what do you do for us for Christmas?”. I tried fancy dinner with friends that bombed too, after all getting up at 4 with kids and then spending the day cooking and afterward cleaning really is not fun. I tried having kids wait till others opened presents so everyone could see the presents and well a war darn near broke out. I tried keeping it neat while they unwrapped and yep another bomb. So yeah more bombs then successes but in the words of Jim Carey’s Grinch “That’s what these tests are for..”
So now here is what happens. The kids decorate the tree however they want it. I am there for safety but offer no input unless asked about the tree. Truthfully they usually let me pick the lights as I like them best. Present lists are kept to a minimum with less then 10 gifts being bought per child. I am single with one income excess is not something we have a lot of. Presents other then toys and the stockings are my gifts. Toys come from Santa. Mass is at 4pm so we can get home in time for dinner and bed. Presents in the morning are opened after Mom grabs some coffee, sorry I have priorities. Wrapping coats the house but who cares no one will die from a mess. You open what you want when you want just be sure to stick to YOUR wrapping paper. Yes gifts are wrapped in different paper for different kids after all not everyone who has come to me can read. Breakfast is pancakes shaped in different Christmas shapes. If we get out of pajamas we do if we don’t c’est la vie, again no one has died from lounging in pjs all day. Dinner is one of each of the kids favorite foods but in no other way planned. Last year we had meatloaf, macaroni and cheese and lime jello with pineapples. Bedtime is early because heaven knows I got up before dawn.
In reality it really isn’t much yet to hear my kids talk to the kids we have at the holidays it seems like so much. They both look forward to Christmas and helping at Church on Christmas Eve. They are happy to celebrate both the religious and social aspects of the holiday with me as part of a family and I figured after many long hours of thinking that is really what it is about. They don’t dread the holidays like I do and happily chat about what we “have to do” for Christmas so I will take it as a win.
So ok maybe we don’t have any mainstream Christmas traditions but ya know what that is all right because it relieves all the pressure from having to do it “right”.