Every year, about four days before Christmas, I end up in tears. It is usually over something silly like the boys not wanting to go look at Christmas lights or make cookies with me. Poor little fellas, they have no idea the pressure cooker that is their mother’s heart during the holiday season; in their eyes, all of a sudden and completely out of nowhere, their mother is overtaken by a tidal wave of grumpiness and guilt closely followed by tears.
I so desperately want a Norman Rockwell Christmas, as well as a tradition-filled New Year. To be honest, I want every holiday to be well-traditioned. I see your ideas and the regularity with which you implement them, and I envy both. I want my kids to eat the same Christmas breakfast on the same festive plates with the same people in the same state every year. I want to do the Celebrate the Past Year jar and the Catch the Leprechaun traps and such.
Whether it is the fact that I have boys or that fact that I have these particular boys or the fact that we are in ministry or the fact that our lives are consistently changing, I know not. I only know this, we are pretty terrible at traditions.
In fact, one of the few traditions I manage to keep is that I traditionally beat myself up when everyone is happily doing their traditions.
Don’t hear me wrong. I love traditions and love that I have so many friends who are incredibly creative and festive. I will continue to try to implement traditions in my family, and I will most likely continue to end up in tears over them.
Traditions have a place in childhood and life, as they offer rhythm and regularity along with ample doses of anticipation and nostalgia. As terrible as we are at them, we do have a few less-than-elaborate traditions.
We do pizza and a movie on Friday nights, we do 3 simple gifts for Christmas, we dye Easter eggs poorly (and they are usually not all the way hard-boiled, despite the fact that I look up directions every year). So, please hear me, I am for traditions.
That being said, I believe that the trends of our lives are just as important, if not more important, than our traditions.
What are the trends in our lives that our children see, in season and out of season? Do they see a trend of togetherness? Do they see a trend of hospitality? Do they see trends of prayerfulness and generosity? Do they see their parents’ tendencies to make time for them, to look them in the eyes and to correct them when needed? Do they see and experience a commitment to working through conflict and failure biblically?
Sometimes I get so bogged down in trying to create (we never do reach the maintenance phase) perfect traditions that I forget the power of the trends we set and the tendencies we practice.
When my children look back on their childhood, it is my prayer that, despite peaks and troughs, there exists a best-fit line that points to Jesus.
I want them to remember inviting random people to our Thanksgiving even though we never had the same menu; I want them to remember worshipping Christ at the remembrance of His birth whether we are on a plane, at home or in a random hotel.
I want them to remember a family that enjoyed spending time with each other during the holidays even in the midst of bouts of boredom and conflict.
I want them to remember a momma who cried more about the needs of the world than her failed attempts at traditions.
But in order for them to remember these things, I need the trend of my life to be looking at Jesus rather than looking at my weaknesses or your strengths.