Changing Traditions: Our Tradition

December 28, 2012

Changing Traditions:  Our Tradition

A recurring theme in rearing children is adaptation. I think one of the reason so many current parents share with so many prospective parents, "You're not ready for kids even if you think you're ready for them," is because no matter how prepared you might think you are, you need to be willing to change things on the fly for the those items for which you were NOT prepared. Those unwilling to adapt to the changes not only to household and routine but also overall philosophy are more likely to struggle with the stresses of parenting. I don't mean to imply that children force you to change everything you believe in, but I do mean to imply they force you to change SOME things. And sometimes those things are well-established traditions. Take the holidays, for example... My wife grew up with her traditions, and I grew up with mine. They were not necessarily the same traditions. She had two trees. One tree was specifically set up for Santa...one was the regular tree. Her family opened no presents on Christmas Eve. They opened their gifts one person at a time...meaning one person opened all his gifts before moving on to the next person. This was done in chronological order (youngest to oldest). We altered our traditions slightly when we got married to replace her stupid traditions with MY more awesome ones. Possibly it was more equitable than that. Marriage means adding trips to your Christmas calendar, because you're no longer just visiting your parents, you're visiting HER parents too. And maybe grandparents...and even though we'd improved the hell out of her traditions, we still had more changing to do. New traditions morphed into being then collapsed and changed again when we had kids. We cut down trips, combined visits; became more home-centric. All that change SHOULD have made us pros at adapting tradition to fit our special needs daughter, but somehow didn't. There is some irony to the ease with which we changed our routines to suit our own conveniences, but struggled to adapt them to fit HER needs. And I don't think it was from any mean-spiritness on our parts, it was just a failure to truly recognize that our Christmas traditions "as currently written in stone" did not suit her. That emotional nostalgic recollection of Christmases past that we wanted to project with focused mind beams into her brain were encountering resistance. I think we believed they would take root. I think we thought, "It's only a matter of time before she plays with traditional toys and gets excited for Santa, and likes opening presents! It's only a matter of time before she'll easily transition from home to home to home and sit nicely at the table while we enjoy this holiday feast." As we've learned to better understand her needs, we are proactively looking at ways to change existing traditions to better suit her. Where before we made grudging modifications with mildly dissatisfying results, now the entire family looks at these big important holiday events with an eye for "How can we make EVERYONE's holiday more fun?" Things that were taboo are now not only encouraged but required...a TV with a familiar preferred program, ability to wander into and out of the opening process, a helper for packages, all the paper she can rip, a quiet room in which to retreat during the festivities, preferred foods that are not what everyone else is eating, minimal traveling, and early retirement and staged gift unwrapping versus unwrapping all at once are all things that help make her holiday more enjoyable.[caption id="attachment_2439" align="alignnone" width="300"] Emma enjoys unwrapping Lily's presents for her. She gets to be the helper. Lily prefers it too.[/caption] When her holiday is more enjoyable...EVERYONE's holiday is more enjoyable. We're not so hidebound by the traditions that surround Christmas anymore. Our tradition changes as our needs change.



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