If there is one thing that has importance beyond words in families, it is the establishment of traditions.
When I was divorced from my children’s father, the one thing that kept nagging at me was to establish traditions. I was eager to lessen the trauma of divorce for them; after all, they had not asked to be here, and yet they were, caught in the fray of battling, or at least unhappy, adults.
Traditions, I felt, would do…something. I didn’t know what it would do, but I was convinced it would do something helpful. It would be the glue that they needed in order to feel like a family, in spite of our loss.
I wanted to get special Christmas tree ornaments every year, but that fell through. I made sure we had the tradition Thanksgiving dinner, with their favorite foods, even though we were always in church on Thanksgiving Day. We always went to Christmas Eve service and Watchnight service; they had to come, of course, because they were my children and I was running the services, but I believed being at those services would plant something in them that the world could not give nor take away.
One of the silliest traditions we set was to sing “happy birthday” to each other at the time the children had been born. For my daughter, it was at 1:28 a.m., and for my son, it was at 10 in the morning. It was our “special” time, and I loved it. There were a couple of times I slept through my daughter’s “birth-date-time” and I felt horrible. The tradition was sewn into my soul and hers, too.
This year, the tradition we set came back to visit me, and not a moment too soon. I was asleep, but at midnight (I don’t know what time I actually came into the world) there was my daughter, tapping me lightly, waking me up. She stood there with a brownie that had a candle in it, a card, and, of course, herself! She sang to me at midnight, the very beginning of the new day. My son called and sang to me (that was our other tradition), and sent me yellow roses. When did I tell him yellow roses were my favorite? He laughed at me; you told us, Ma, he said. We practiced giving each other gifts that meant something special. For my son, it was panda bears, and for me, yellow roses. I was speechless. Though this year has been particularly painful for me for a number of reasons, the traditions we set, brought to me by my children, made the pain go away. I smiled. I cried. And I thanked God.
Even as I write this, I tear up. I had no idea how absolutely powerful traditions are until this year. Family is about so much more than just being related by blood. Family is about setting in place those things which will be the glue for you when hard times come. Family is a powerful tool for keeping people sane when insanity is knocking at the door. For anyone reading, treasure the traditions you have; if you don’t have any specific ones, please set them in place. They have a power of their own. They matter.
A candid observation …