During the first year or two of marriage, many traditions are established. A lot of “firsts” end up being seconds, thirds and soon everyone expects it. As creatures of habit, we all feel comfortable and safe in repeating the same thing over and over. Now that my daughter has a child of her own, I’ve realized it’s time for me to let go of my well-loved traditions and honor the new ones she has adopted.
I’ve always depended on family traditions around the holiday season. My husband and I always served turkey for Thanksgiving and beef for Christmas—with pumpkin pie for dessert. We went to church on Christmas Eve and opened gifts on Christmas morning. When my daughter was very young, we encouraged her to help decorate the Christmas tree. By the time she was four, we basically turned the job over to her. Sometimes our tree was unusual, but she always loved it and enjoyed showing it off to friends and relatives.
Over the years, our guest list always had the same core group. Our families were out-of-state, so we made our close friends Jack and Joe into “uncles.” Grandma’s passing left one less stocking on the hearth. Our daughter went to college and moved out. Uncle Jack started struggling with Parkinson’s and it wasn’t long before he moved into assisted living and could no longer come to dinner. Our daughter got married and had a home of her own. Did I let that change my holiday plans? No way! For the first year after her wedding, I continued to decorate, cook and plan just like always. My son-in-law’s family had its own holiday traditions which left the newlyweds in an awkward position.
Reluctant to let anybody down as newlyweds, my daughter and her husband tried different approaches. One Thanksgiving, he went to his folks’ for dinner and she came to our house to keep both families happy. Then for Christmas, they went to one family’s for drinks and appetizers then dinner at the others’. Too much food! Both ended up with a tummy ache. For Easter, they had dinner with his family and dessert with us. Again, too much food and drink.
Something had to give.
The following year, we agreed to let go of all expectations and focus on getting together whenever we could — even if not on the actual holiday itself. Sometimes I was out of a job prepping for holidays as I always had, but found that I sort of liked it. We found the “new normal” workable and much less stressful.
This year, we have a new baby in the family. Our first grandchild will make the holidays a lot more fun and I’m certain a number of new traditions will be set. Coordinating get-together with a baby can be tricky, so once again, letting go of expectations seems like a good place to start.
The one rule I have for myself as the Momoo (my grandma name – a story for another day) is to honor whatever holiday traditions my daughter comes up with, and happily join in the traditions as I’m invited to.
Don’t know if their dessert menu will include pumpkin pie – but if it doesn’t, there’s always Fry’s.
Loved the article! Ginger and her husband John, were parents who volunteered in my classroom when their daughter was my 6th grade student. They are all intelligent, accomplished and entirely wonderful people.