Dispatch to Kaeden
I don’t know when traditions start. Or even why. Your aunt and uncle always watch Home Alone and order pizza on Christmas Eve. Others always eat ham and mashed potatoes on Christmas day and go to midnight mass. As a kid, we always drove around the local park with lights and ate pastries for breakfast. My favorite was and still is Cinnabon.
For some, the Christmas season is as much about keeping with traditions as Jesus himself. And we struggle with balancing that. But for what it’s worth we started a few new traditions this year. We started a gift-giving policy: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. Which was a bit of an issue this year since you can’t exactly tell us what you want. And you woke up in your own bed in your own house on Christmas morning. Mom and I laid you down late on Christmas Eve and we stayed up late to assemble your new toys. I also carried on the tradition of my dad by reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” All of that may not seem like a lot, but for us it’s a monumental step in the evolution of our family. Your Mom and I grew up in two different kinds of households. As a child, Mom lived within 15 minutes of her entire family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, first cousins, second cousins, fifth cousins – and spent the entire Christmas season gallivanting to celebration after celebration. And I grew up in a town where my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins lived 12 hours away. Christmas for me was not a three-day extravaganza of gatherings and parties but centered around waking our parents up at the first sign of light and sitting at the top of the staircase in hopes we got that “it” gift and having a reason to stay in our pajamas all day.
Every single Christmas since your Mom and I got married has been about confronting one of life’s major transitions - from child to adult. Christmas finds us connecting the dots to accommodate two sets of families, two sets of traditions and two ideals. Since you were born, planning for Christmas has occupied discussions that last throughout the year. Even in April and August, we exchange text messages and emails wondering if we should let you believe in Santa Claus? Should we partake in Elf on a Shelf? How many gifts should we buy? Are we being too extravagant? Are we not being indulgent enough? Are we forgetting to celebrate the birth of Jesus? What traditions will we make our own?
Last year, when you were only six months old, Mom and I said “next year will be better” and that you would understand it more and actually help tear wrapping paper. Well, this Christmas came and left. And it must have been just as interesting in your eyes as ever. Your play area formerly known as our living room got overloaded with new race tracks, more Mega Bloks and an 8-foot Christmas tree with ornaments you weren’t allowed to touch. I feel like we teased you. Sorry. We drove 431.6 miles in three days, watched at the very least 20 episodes of The Backyardigans to keep a sense of normalcy, received lots of presents from people who love us and consumed more cookies than we eat the rest of the year combined. My new favorite is peanut butter and jelly thumbprint. You spent three waking hours in our own house and gave lots of hugs to lots of people.
And I still feel like we didn’t do Christmas right. Maybe it’s because Christmas is funny with a 19-month old. But this year, like the born-and-raised Chicago Cubs fan I am, we are saying “maybe next year.” Next year, we will get it right. Mom and I will balance Jesus and Santa better and watch more Christmas movies and make more traditions. We’ll explain the quintessential humanity that Christmas is all about and spend less time in a car. You’ll actually ask for stuff and we’ll make it a tradition to do an advent calendar daily.
Being parents on Christmas is a gift in itself that shows the best gifts cannot be purchased, wrapped and placed under a tree; gifts like love, joy and children sleeping through the night with no interruptions are some of the best gifts we’ll ever get.
I promise, Christmas will get better. You and I, we are both learning at this Christmas thing. Traditions are not started overnight, but this year we started somewhere. It’s a season we can all be proud of.
I can’t promise that we will always follow tradition. Here’s to hoping one year we spend a white Christmas morning in Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel ala Home Alone 2. But our gift to you is that every year we will be better parents. Christmas will always be about love and joy, two things you will never be without. Thanks for making this year the best Christmas we’ve had yet.
*Read this to us when you have a family and want to start your own traditions.