By Erika, The Bonus Mom
I never thought much about traditions until I was about to get married. Then, and my poor husband can attest, I wanted everything to be a tradition. It actually became this weird obsession of mine. “this could be a tradition or this” I would excitedly say about just about anything. Exasperated one day, my husband encouraged me to calm down and assured me that we would find our groove and make our own traditions.
It was weird, this newfound obsession with making things traditions. As I said, I had just never cared before. There were some things that were traditions for my family – like on the first Christmas after a child learns to read the “New Reader” gets to distribute all of the Christmas gifts – that I definitely wanted to pass to my own children. And, in my head, I dreamed I would hand sew all of my kids’ Halloween costumes, just as my mom had. But, I was never, like, pressed about such matters. But, when I knew I was going to be married and have a family of my own my need for traditions became weirdly urgent.
At first, I wasn’t really sure why I felt the need to create our own family traditions or why it had to be done right away. I mean, Roger and I are going to be married foreva (in my Cardi B voice); so what’s the rush? What I realized is that I felt an urgent need to create these traditions so that I could find my place in my new little family. There were some traditions that my husband had with our kids that pre-dated me. And they totally should – the kids predated our relationship, duh! And there were some traditions that I didn’t even KNOW were traditions for them until I did something I thought was helpful and was politely informed about how that thing was actually done.
So it’s weird place to be in. Because, when a husband and wife start out as just the two of them they can bring their traditions from each family into the marriage and figure out what works for them. And they can decide what will be new tradition for their relationship and family. With us, I feel like we are each bringing our traditions in but we also have an extra set of traditions to fit into the mix. After all, I do NOT want to disrupt the traditions our children have come to know and love. However, I am still trying to figure out how me and my family and our traditions fit into this thing.
I also think that with the passing of my mother-in-law and some of my close family members fighting terminal illnesses, I am feeling very much like I want to connect the traditions and the things that made my childhood so special to Londyn and Roger. Even though they are not my biological children, I want to make sure that they both carry the magic of being a McDaniel/Valentine with them in the same way they will carry the magic of their mother and father’s families. I want to give my children – ALL of them – something that they can carry and pass down. Because, as a I kid, I assumed everyone would live forever and now I’m grappling with exactly how wrong I was. Now, it’s more important to me than ever that we pass down family traditions and special memories they can cherish forever.
I haven’t nailed down exactly what traditions I will pass down to Roger and Londyn. They both started reading at the beginning of our relationship and neither is the present passer at Christmas. And, I’m definitely NOT in these streets sewing Halloween costumes. Our family tradition that is passed down will have to be something else. It might even take a few tries for us to land on it. I think, though, I’ll start with Thanksgiving.
When I was a kid, my Aunt Bert would spend the days after thanks giving baking cookies – chocolate chip, peanut butter, butterscotch, sugar cookies, the whole shebang. She’d bag them up and put them in tins and for all of the adults in the family that would be their Christmas gift. I LOVED helping Aunt Bert bake her cookies and LOVED when we lived far away and would receive the tin of cookies I helped bake. I would spend hours underfoot mixing cookies, placing dough on cookie sheets, and watching the timer like a hawk. And I spent many of Aunt Bert’s older years BEGGING her to make cookies just one more time. She always told me that I was old enough to make the cookies myself and that I should send her some when I did.
Maybe this is the year I send her a tin of cookies made with all of the love that Roger, Londyn and I have to give.