Friday, February 25, 2011
I have been struggling with traditions.
Two years after divorcing my children's father, my mother died. A month or so after her death, I met with my daughter who was 20 at the time. She was talking about her grandmother's death and said "...when dad's mom died..." I stopped her and said, "Listen. It was MY mom who died. Mimi was MY mother. She was not your dad's mother." My daughter gave me a whatever look and kept on talking as if she didn't hear me.
My son told me that his dad brought cranberry sauce to their Thanksgiving celebration this last year. This cranberry sauce is the spiced cranberry sauce that my mother made every year while I was growing up. I made it every year while my own kids were growing up. Even though I wasn't there, having my son tell me that their dad did something that I used to do on the holiday made me feel unneeded and unwanted.
I wanted to invite the kids over to watch the Academy Awards this year, a tradition I had before I was married, before I had kids. I invited the kids last year and the year before, but they had already had plans with their dad. I've been hesitating about inviting them, not wanting to be disappointed by them telling me they are already doing something with their dad. On the other hand, I also want them to feel as though I am including them in our lives. My partner reminded me, however, that asking them to come over for an event that their dad is also doing puts them in the awkward situation of having to choose between me and their dad. I have been torn.
I have been frustrated when it's seemed as though my ex-husband has taken over doing all of the traditional things I used to do. (okay, and pretty frustrated that he claimed that my mother was his.)
In the book 7 STEPS TO FINDING YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE, there is a chapter on ritual and tradition. Traditions, it says, are the things we do that remind us who we are.
"Traditions are the things we do over and over that remind us of our identity - culturally, religiously/spiritually, and with our friends and families. These repeated familiar actions keep us connected to our roots and grounded in our identity.
"Some traditions are elaborate and involved, such as large family celebrations. Others may be smaller in scope, such as how a specific dish is prepared, yet they are still significant. Whether large or small, traditions tell us, 'We do it this way because this is who we are.'"
My partner has been urging me to create new traditions, new ways of being with the kids that don't involve trying to make it be like it was, or reflect what the family used to do.
We are doing that. This year we rented a beach house in January and invited the kids to come for a few days instead of 'doing Christmas' on Christmas day. We had Christmas at the beach house in January. We played games, cooked and ate good food, took the dog for walks on the beach, took pictures, hung out and read.
The beach in January was great. The kids thought it was a brilliant new tradition. So did I. I love that we are developing traditions that reflect our new relationships.
My kids' dad may very well continue to commandeer holidays and traditions. I decided not to invite the kids over for the Academy Awards. I don't want them to have to choose, and I also don't want to be the one not chosen.
I still make cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving. I do this for me. Preparing it evokes fond memories of my parents and the large family gatherings we had growing up. The cranberry sauce tradition connects me to my roots.
And the new traditions we are developing help me honor who I am now.
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