As our teens are heading into adulthood, and we are heading full bore into the holiday season, I have been thinking about family traditions and sustainability of these traditions as our teens become adults. As a person who grew up with the holidays steeped in tradition, there is comfort for me in tradition and in this way of doing the holidays. I dislike change for the most part, and I like to have a real handle on how things are going to go over the few precious days we have as a family. To others, this could feel rigid, controlling and intense. Yup – I think this might be the perfect description of myself. GULP. Is this the way my teens see me, and our traditions?
As parents we head into the holiday season with our littles hoping we are creating special, important family time. When they are little though, everything is special and SO filled with the holiday spirit. Think back to the Christmas concerts, the crafts, the creating of snowmen in the backyard, singing carols, holiday colouring books etc. I have to tell you – if you have teens – going in to your local bookstore and seeing all the cute holiday books, and fun pre-school accoutrements is enough to drive you to tears – or perhaps back home to a nice glass of red…
but I digress…
As our children become teens and then young adults, do we need to change up the traditions, create new ones, or forge ahead with the way things have “always” been done?
Take for instance, reading Mortimer’s Christmas Manger. Think back to the days when you read to your little one before bed. On Christmas Eve, it was always a tradition in our house to read a few stories together as a family. Typically, at least one of those stories was The Christmas Story. I found Mortimer at the bookstore when the kids were babies, and it melded the Christmas story with a heartwarming story about a mouse looking for a home. Reading this story before bed, on Christmas Eve, has been our tradition since our kids were born. Now that our kids are almost 19, 17 and 14 is it time to give it up?
What about the Christmas pyjamas? I know I’m not the only one out there who loves the fact that new pyjamas on Christmas Eve means that everyone looks presentable (and decent) on Christmas morning. When they were little, this was just a fun tradition but now that they are forging towards adulthood – truly – everyone in decent pj’s is a gift to all. Where the pj’s used to be flannel and footed, I think at least one of my offspring is hoping silk will be the fabric of choice this year…
Food? I have had the same Christmas Eve meal since I can remember – or at least since Best of Bridge came out with Hamburger Soup, and I continue it with our family…. Quite frankly, I don’t dare give this one up, for fear of revolt. Even our extended family knows and expects the famous hamburger soup on Christmas Eve. And who doesn’t love a soup you can make even the day before that will be delicious and hot when you come home from Christmas Eve church services?
Traditions are funny though. Some, you can change and the kids don’t even blink and others they feel to their very core. I am perhaps a little obsessive on our family traditions, but here are my reasons why.
They create a family bond. As your kids become adults, they will have their family traditions to look back on together as siblings. Common family jokes (most of them at the expense of YOU, their parents), common special experiences, and familiarity. My brother and I still laugh and reminisce about special family traditions we held as a family. It does bond us together because only WE know these moments – they are ours and they are what helps keep us close.
They teach values. Creating and keeping traditions help teach your kids about what you value as a family. Whether is is religious or cultural beliefs, the value of charity, importance of reading or environmental concern – all of these things are solidified in family traditions. They teach that you stand for SOMETHING as a family.
They create lasting memories. Whatever your traditions may be, upholding them year after year creates lasting memories for your family. Our kids will not go to bed without hanging their stockings together and having their picture taken with one of us. It is just a memory that they know and love. Don’t we all have those special memories of a family tradition that we just can’t live without?
All of these things being said, sometimes we have to change things up to make it work for the family unit. I’m sure in years to come “significant others” will become a factor, and new traditions will need to be created. I will have to learn to be flexible with my expectations and go with the flow.
SO, in thinking about all this, and quite frankly, feeling a little sorry for myself that my kids are getting older and “do they even care about family traditions anymore?” I realized that I am forging ahead with the current plan. We will continue the family traditions. Until they are old enough to be out on their own and establish their own family traditions, they will participate in ours. And I can only hope and pray that maybe one or two of those traditions will stick with them and perhaps even become a part of THEIR family traditions in the future. I think family tradition creates comfort, predictability and expectation in our family. It creates family bond, memories, and expresses our values. I’m ok with that.
And back to Mortimer. I know it is hard to believe, but, we still have “daddy” read Mortimer every Christmas Eve. With his special squeaky voice, and the kids joshing him throughout, he reads the story with all the gusto he did when our kids were toddlers. And quite frankly, I don’t believe they would have it any other way… You see, every time he reads the story, we gather around, the phones are put away, and for a small moment in time we are just us five, doing OUR thing.
What are some of your favourite family traditions? Are there some you can’t live without? Are there some you wish you could ditch? Share your fav.’s or tell us about some special family memories or traditions that are important to either you or your kids!! What are your thoughts on keeping traditions alive as your kids get older