I’m not a particularly religious person, but this Christmas is a big one for us. It’s our first Christmas as parents, and Gabe’s first Christmas, period. I’m hoping the traditions we start with him now are ones that he’ll not only enjoy (or at least tolerate), but maybe pass on to his kids.
This morning, I took him to get pictures with Santa Claus. Now, he has absolutely no clue what or who Santa is, and the only things he wants are (variously): to crawl, the boob, to grab at faces, and to try to drink from a cup. But maybe next year he’ll have an idea of Christmas, and by starting this year, it’ll be easy enough for us to do it again next year. I took him to Nordstrom to get his picture, just as my parents took me there (and my mom’s parents took her to Frederick & Nelson in the same building). I’d like to think that he’ll take his kids there, but for now, I’m just happy he didn’t have a meltdown in the hour-long line and he didn’t scream in Santa’s face.
When I was extremely pregnant, in a fit of nesting-induced thoughtlessness, I pitched out our artificial Christmas tree. Looking back, I have no idea why I did so, but I can only assume that my reasoning was that the baby wouldn’t understand or care. Cut to Thanksgiving weekend, when I watched my son become enthralled with a lit Christmas tree. The following Monday, I hunted down a cheap fake tree, at which he now happily stares and grabs. I have no plans to throw away this one (at least until we’re in a place where I can really blow his mind and get a real tree).
We’re not doing a lot for gifts this year. Again, partially it’s because he wouldn’t care (he spent 45 minutes today playing with an empty Cheerios box), and partially because having a baby is an expensive hobby. Instead of big expensive gifts, he’s getting two board books about daddies, one board book about the city (illustrated with Jacob Lawrence paintings), and swimming lessons. I know these things are all best experienced as a family, and as a bonus, none of them take up much room in our small apartment.
There are traditions we hope to start with him that he’s just too young for yet. My parents always took us up to the mountains to cut wild Christmas trees (with a permit, it’s not like we were poaching!), and I can’t wait for him to be big enough to enjoy snow and hot chocolate. I attend church once a year, when the 11pm Christmas Eve service doubles as both a spiritual observance and social event. This year, I won’t be attending, but I hope to attend next year and to make that hour of community and music and reflection a part of his holidays, something that we don’t have to think about, we just do.
I never fully understood the idea before, but as we’ve started to raise this child, I’ve come to see how people would want to use their children to re-live their childhood or to correct mistakes that they made in the past. I want to give him what would have been my ideal childhood Christmas, one that didn’t involve extended family members not talking to each other or 40-mile drives on Christmas morning. I want for him what every parent wants for their child: I want him to go to bed knowing that he’s loved and safe, and I want him to wake up happy.
What holiday traditions did you start or do you want to start for your kids? What do you want to never, ever do with your kids?