As a soon-to-be parent of twins, I’m amazed at the number of conversations my husband and I find ourselves having regarding the ways in which we will raise our children. There are the ever practical, necessary, obvious questions like: How will we want to discipline our children? What boundaries do we want to implement with television, video games, technology? Vaccinate? Don’t vaccinate? Sleep training? Are you sure men can’t breastfeed?
And then there are the questions I simply assumed we would be on the same page about, but quickly discovered that as ever in marriage, two “normals” coming together require more attention than just a shrug and belief that these things will just “work themselves out.”
Where do we start in planning the traditions that will form the anchoring memories of our children’s childhood?
One such area is the decision regarding the Christmas traditions we want to establish for our expanding family. Until this point—as a childless married couple of 11 years—we have navigated the past decade and change of holidays with a convenient bi-yearly shuffle between our respective families; thus, postponing the need to cultivate what Christmas looks like to us as our own family.
Now that we’re here, big-belly of jumping babes and all, the idea is both elating and daunting. Where do we start in planning the traditions that will form the anchoring memories of our children’s childhood?
In the process of trying to tackle this beast of joyful merriment, I’m discovering that by answering some key questions, my husband and I are better able to ascertain what traditions are most important to our values, and thus the traditions that we want to invest in. From there we can focus on building these foundational blocks of tradition while allowing organic new ones to unfold as our children grow.
Here is a sampling of questions we found helpful in getting us started:
1. What lessons do we want to teach our children through gift-giving?
Photo by Maglara/Shutterstock.com
One of my love languages is gift-giving. I love receiving gifts (and giving them too). However, in the western world—America in particular—we tend to have an extremely extravagant expression of gift-giving for our children.
As a child, I remember my grandparents rolling in—year after year—an oversized black garbage bag full of wrapped perfection. Don’t get me wrong, I loved this consumeristic and lavish spoiling bag of love, but was it beneficial to my growth in character and my ultimate interaction with a vastly consumeristic culture? I would say no. It’s taken me two decades to even begin to unravel the core sense of materialistic need I feel, fed in part by my yearly garbage bag of wrapped love.
Decision time: do we want that for our kids? Or are there healthier boundaries and practices that we, as parents, can implement? If so, what are those practices for you?
2. Fake or real Christmas tree?
Photo ny MiloVad/Shutterstock.com
It might seem funny, but hidden behind this seemingly innocent question is a creature of divisiveness waiting to pounce. I swear, two “normals” coming together should carry with it the promise of chocolate.
Anytime we go to visit my husband’s family for Christmas, we have a lovely smelling natural tree glistening in all of its sparse lopsided glory. With my family, we have a plush, tall and perfectly symmetric plastic tree compliments of Target. Both get the job done. Both yielded profoundly wonderful childhood memories for each of us respectively. But which one is right for us, as a family?
Decision time: will you be the family that trudges through a snowy tree farm—or the corner cement lot in Los Angles if you’re a city dweller like we are—blissfully hunting down the perfect Christmas tree? Or will you be the family that pulls your tree out of storage, brews the perfect cuppa and blasts Christmas music while assembling your lighted beauty?
3. To bake or not to bake, that is the question.
Actually, it isn’t. Baking for Christmas is a no brainer. The answer is always yes. If you disagree then we cannot be friends. It’s a tradition begging to make the cut. But, what to bake is the question!
Decision time: what are those special recipes you want passed down to your children, grandchildren and great-greats? Pull favorite recipes from both sides of the family and get those sugary-scents piping through your home, carrying with them the promise of cherished memories for all.
What other questions will get the cultivation of your holiday traditions underway?
Only you know the full breadth of the questions that need to be asked for your expanding family. They vary culture to culture, age to age, value system by value system with each question leading to a foundational discussion that will reveal what actually matters to you as a family during the most wonderful time of the year.
Time to get started! The future of holiday cheer is merry and bright—happy tradition-forging!