Three Things to Consider when Deciding Which Traditions to Keep and Which to Abandon
If I’d read this headline a few years ago, I would have skimmed past it. Traditions were nothing but good, said my inner conversation. Why in the world would we stop any of them? If my husband or kids had read the headline, they would have forwarded the article to me. My name is Diane, and I am a tradition addict.
I’ve always loved traditions. As a single mom, I worked extra hard to establish family traditions for my daughters. I wanted to build that firm foundation, an undefinable feeling of a strong family. I believe traditions are an essential part of that recipe. I stand by that belief, but I can now see that there comes a time when some traditions become a burden and no longer fit their intended role. I’ll paraphrase a popular meme, “Let go of traditions that exhaust you, leave you broke, or no longer bring joy.” That hit me hard. I’ve been guilty of holding on to a tradition way too long just because it’s, well, tradition.
The tradition that comes to mind from the past is attending the annual performance of The Nutcracker. For years, my daughters and I got dressed up and attended the Tulsa Ballet‘s The Nutcracker. In the early years, my daughters were enthralled with the magical performance. They thoroughly enjoyed it – until they didn’t. We kept going into their middle school years, but it was becoming apparent the joy was gone. However, I held on because it was so entrenched in our family holiday traditions. Fortunately, my daughters finally brought me to my senses and gently said that although they had loved it for many years, they had had enough. It was time to move on, although now it’s almost time to bring that tradition back for my grandchildren.
As children age and families grow, it is worthwhile to look at what traditions are worth continuing and which ones can be abandoned. Although I’m still working on letting go of traditions, here are my three suggestions for deciding what should stay and which should go.
Talk to your family about what’s important to them. You might be surprised at their priorities. My adult kids care deeply about our Christmas Eve and Christmas morning traditions, but they were more than willing to forego the big afternoon meal on Christmas day.
I had always loved having a tree-trimming family event because that was a fun ritual my parents established early in my childhood. No one else enjoys it, so I’ve had to accept the reality that I’ll be decorating the tree while singing carols all by myself. (An epiphany as I wrote this, maybe it’s my singing they are avoiding? Nah, couldn’t be.)
I’m a planner and don’t like change, so flexibility is not my forte. However, it’s necessary, especially as new people join the family. When I gained sons-in-law, I asked them what traditions were important to them. As grandchildren joined the family, we adjusted the rituals and the schedules to accommodate them. The Christmas Eve festivities now start early so we can be finished in time for my two-year-old granddaughter’s bedtime.
I also have to learn to be flexible with my expectations. For the first four Christmases of my grandson’s life, we had a picture taken in front of the same display at Utica Square. He is no longer a willing participant, much to my disappointment. Maybe his little sister will cooperate?
Does the resulting happiness and joy make the tradition a worthwhile expenditure of your time, energy, and financial resources? Sometimes the low-key events have just as big of a return on seasonable joy as an event that requires a significant commitment of your resources. The stress level during holidays is already high, especially for mothers. Don’t add so many extra events and activities that add to your burden without adding that much to the season’s enjoyment.
An afternoon spent baking Christmas cookies (and yes, pre-made dough counts) can be a low-cost, high-payback event. Consider buying a Gingerbread House that’s pre-constructed and ready to decorate so you can save yourself the stress of trying to get it to stay together. (I’m speaking from recent experience.) Get a good return on your investment.
There is a lot of pressure to create a magical holiday for our kids and grandkids, but perhaps the best way to achieve that magic is by having reasonable expectations. Having a less-stressed parent is better for the entire family than spending time, energy, and money on events just because you think they are necessary traditions. It’s taken me a few years to understand that and allow myself to let go of a few traditions. I think my family is happier because I’m not frantically trying to do everything. Mothers are expected to create the magic, but don’t we deserve a little holiday magic also?