I think it is safe to say we’ve officially entered the holiday season. There has already been Christmas stuff in the stores for about a month now, but you know it's the holiday season when the Starbucks holiday cups are out, and the annual I-can't-believe-the-cups-look-like… rhetoric starts sweeping the social media sites. Holiday music is being piped through store speakers, and toy-land catalogs are arriving by the dozens in the mail every day. So it begins.
This, then, is the perfect time to talk about holiday traditions. We are all shaped by traditions of some sort! Some of us have religious traditions, while others have, say, travel traditions. Some houses do over-the-top decorating, while others just hang a wreath on the door and call it a day. Some people flip-flop years with each set of in-laws, while others have family and extended family get togethers that last for a whole week.
When I was a new mom I had very specific ideas of how to spend the holidays based on how I was raised and how I spent the holidays growing up. Well, my husband also had some ideas on how to spend the holidays based on his upbringing. Guess what!? Those ideas did not match up very well because the way my family did Christmas (in our case) was different (very much so) from the way his family did Christmas. And, especially as our little family of just the two of us became a family of five over the years, ideas about traveling and expenses (especially the differences in opinion about traveling and expenses) started to cause strain in our marriage. We've had (over many years) some pretty (um) passionate (ahem!) discussions about gifts, money, traveling, cooking, and, well, you can just name it all when it comes to the holidays at our house. I'd love to tell you we always compromised beautifully and our respective families were always perfectly accepting, but that would make me not only a liar, but also a pretty unbelievable, unrelatable mom, wife, daughter, sister, etc.
This is real life, after all. Nothing is perfect here. I can offer this sage advice, though: be ok with making your own traditions. Be ok with compromising; in fact offer a compromise with your spouse on the front end. Also, do it sooner rather than later. Communicate and meet each other in the middle when you start to make your own family holiday traditions. I made myself miserable for several holiday seasons because I insisted on my way (or the highway) and doing it this way caused stress across the board for me, my husband, my parents and my kids. Let me tell you something, kids are expert freaking psychoanalysts when they are young and put in a tension-filled situation. They know. They also don't have any filters to not tell everyone about how mommy and daddy said they don't want to ever have to be alive again during Thanksgiving dinner at (insert friend or relative's name here) house, and, by the way, Alaska in the dead of winter is much more appealing than a tropical, warm trip anywhere because mommy and daddy could just be all alone, then. The cashier at Target knows all about how Zoloft makes for a Merry Christmas. True story.
The world does not come to an end when you step into your new family role and make new family traditions. You and your spouse, along with your new, young (or old and older) family can be firm and state your own plans and make your own way through the holiday seasons. Don't be afraid to speak up and don't be guilted into something you don't want to do, just because one set of in-laws “always does it this way” and insists that the apocalypse will begin if you deviate from that plan. Couples, here is where you need to support each other, especially behind the scenes (you know, the around-the-corner, wink, head-nod, out of earshot, “Dear, I know this is all her doing, why don't you just take charge,” or the, “Honey, I know you really want to do it this way…”). Practice these words now, “Together we have decided to make our own tradition and it will look like this…”
Your family will be better for it. Traditions are the glue that keep us together, sometimes. When things get tough, counting on a holiday tradition can be a comfort to the soul, as long as it is a tradition that truly makes happy memories. I've come a long way in this department, as has Mark, but it hasn't been all easy-as-that… Family raising is not for the faint of heart, mind you. Growing pains hurt and compromise is hard, but living and loving through this life is worth it. Fight the good fight.
Keep calm, make memories and your own traditions, and parent on!