Although I am sure this is not true in all families, my personal experience is that mothers make things special. Having lost mine at age 12, I don’t remember things being all that special after that so I felt it was up to me to make them that way. Those extra touches when I had my own family, trying to create memories, sometimes made me crazy because I put extra pressure on myself to make things perfect. There is still a part of me that wants a Norman Rockwell Christmas, complete with a horse-drawn sleigh gliding over a covered bridge and an ice skating pond in the middle of the village square while a gentle snowfall reflects against the moonlit sky. Maybe … someday …
I want my kids to look forward to the holidays, anticipating the fun we’ll have when we are together. Family is so important to me and I am so glad my kids all get along and are loving toward each other; I hope it will always be that way even when they have their own families. Rituals create a bond that reminds you that you belong somewhere and you are loved and valued just as you are. It feels safe to be you.
Over the years I have tried to pare down holiday preparation so I could enjoy the holidays too instead of just making it special for everyone else. Sometimes by trying to eliminate certain parts we realize how important they really are to our sense of completeness and expectations. I know that certain foods have to be made like trash for the kids and homemade eggnog for me or it isn’t Christmas. Depending on what guests are coming, having heavy appetizers and lasagna and salad and garlic bread on Christmas Eve was a tradition for years. Then cinnamon rolls and orange Julius for breakfast <who cares about eating when there are presents under the tree>. Then we ate either a prime rib or ham for Christmas day with lots of veggies from their grandfather’s garden.
We used to do a variation on the 12 days of Christmas because as soon as I decorated the tree and started putting the presents out, my family was all about opening them before Christmas. That was not acceptable, so I compromised and we threw dice to determine who and when someone could open up a gift early. Then we used boxes from Harry & David and the gift had to fit in the chosen box. It works for a family of 4 … when my daughter came along it went by the wayside; of course the divorce changed things too!
One of the things my family likes to do is play games together, although tempers sometimes flare up <we tend to be a little competitive but we still persist>. When my sons come home, they still want a massage from me and we get to catch up with one on one time and no distractions. We have had some phenomenal discussions during these times and I cherish our time together. Hopefully they realize how special they are to me and always will be. We love to watch Duke Basketball games together as well, and tend to get a little rowdy when the game is close. Any activity that you do together becomes meaningful and bonds your family together. I miss tucking my kids in at night; hopefully they will remember how good it felt and do it with their kids. I remember checking in on them and feeling my heart melt at how precious they were while they slept soundly and I must admit when they come home I still do that.
This Christmas, I am going to ask my kids what they like best about our family, what they look forward to when coming home. It might even be something insignificant that I don’t even remember that’s important to them. Hopefully they have learned that by interacting with each other in positive and healthy ways <cooperating and helping each other>, they are contributing to their own sense of family, which increases their pride and loyalty and overall feeling of belonging to something special.