The stress of establishing traditions

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I’ve never been overly sentimental. I have a box of childhood mementos packed away but only because my mom saved them for me. My wedding dress hangs in my closet, but it is dirty and the lace is tattered at the bottom, the result of an awesome backyard wedding where I was barefoot for most of the reception; it will not be a pristine, preserved dress I pass down to my daughter, if I ever have a daughter. I have cards from our wedding saved, but slightly out of obligation–shouldn’t I want to look back in these in fifty years?  I just found them while sorting through our guest bedroom and, only three and a half years into our marriage, am considering getting rid of them to make room in the box for other things I want to save instead, whatever that may be. Does that make me a terrible person?

This past holiday season really stressed me out when I thought about establishing traditions for Lenny, as it was his first holiday, followed a week later by his first birthday. So many tradition-making opportunities. I felt unmotivated and overwhelmed. There were so many things I “should” be doing: we should take a photo with Santa; we should do something special Christmas Eve, like Christmas pajamas; should we invite kids to Lenny’s birthday party or keep it family-only, and will everyone want to be invited back every year?; I want to buy a book for Lenny’s library and write the date in it to document his first holiday; we need stockings to stuff now that there are three of us, something I have been putting off buying since Len and I moved in together.

I can tell you about two and a half of these things actually got done. The truth is, the holidays are hard with an infant, and even harder while on unemployment. The truth is, Lenny is just too young to remember. While Lenny did find a few presents under the tree, we chose to focus on our nieces instead, who are old enough to understand and appreciate the holiday. For our own traditions, we unwrapped and wore Christmas Eve pajamas. I bought stockings for each of us, but none of them got filled. And I bought a book for Lenny’s birthday, his only present from us, but forgot to wrap it or even give it to him on his birthday. Whoops. He was there when I picked it out, so maybe it would have been pointless. Also, again, he will never remember that he didn’t unwrap a birthday gift from us this year.

But there goes the mom guilt again. Should I have made more of an effort with these things?  Aren’t these the things that should matter, the things that bring magic and joy to the holidays and our birthdays?

I’m hoping that, for Lenny’s next Christmas and birthday, things will be a little bit different. I may not take Lenny to get his picture taken with Santa, but I do hope to continue buying Christmas pajamas, and I intend to fill our stockings for the first time. And I’ll keep buying him books, even if they aren’t given for any occasion but just show up on his bookshelf one afternoon.

There is one tradition I was mindful of, and intent upon starting this year–making Lenny’s birthday cake. As a pastry chef, this one was important to me.  Lenny loved his birthday cupcake, and this is one tradition I’m happy to be obliged to every year.

2 comments on “The stress of establishing traditions”

  1. I love traditions- big, small, no matter what- it is your tradition, whatever you make it to be! That is such a beautiful cake, Gena! I’m sure Lenny, and everyone else LOVED it!!

  2. Ah, I remember the first birthday party for my only son which was almost 10 years ago like it was yesterday. Before that milestone though someone mentioned the party for our little one was more for the parents than the child. I embraced that sentiment and invited a small gathering of family and friends, and gave our son his first cupcake too! While he enjoyed his huge rush of sugar the rest of us had champagne and celebrated making it through the first year with smiles on our faces 🙂 Keep up the good work mama and hold onto those traditions that keep you smiling through the years. Best, xox

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