Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Traditions: A Letter to my Kids

Dear Thomas and Marie,

It is almost Christmas, and although this season is a lot of work, I would not trade it for anything in the world.

I love our traditions.

One year I had to get Marie out of the house because the fumes from our freshly painted basement was too much. I cranked up the heat in the car and took you for a drive around the neighborhood in your jammies to look at lights. The tradition stuck, and we now listen to Christmas music in our jammies as we drive around and look at lights.

I look forward to baking cookies with you and decorating them with Nana and Papa. This tradition was handed down to you since I used to bake cookies with Nana.

December 2009. Look at those cheeks.

December 2011. This face!

I love how we always get dressed in Christmasy clothes and write letters to Santa at Macy's. This tradition was created because you were both too scared to sit on Santa's lap. We eat in the mall food court before finishing up Christmas shopping for daddy. 

December 2012: This is one of my most favorite photos of them in the
history of their photos. Which is a lot of photos.

Our new Christmas Eve tradition of putting on our new Christmas jammies, watching a Christmas movie while eating Christmas cookies and drinking hot chocolate is one of my favorites. It is cozy and relaxing and so different than any thing I ever experienced as a kid. I enjoy this maybe a pinch more than the highly coveted Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve 2012. Hot Chocolate through a straw.
And by hot, I really mean lukewarm chocolate milk.

I cherish these rituals that are perfect for our little family.

I try to memorize how your little bodies feel all snuggled up under the favorite brown, fleecy blanket while we watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

I record your giggles as you sneak the chocolate chips meant for the Hello, Dolly bars because you didn't think I heard you.

In my mind, I etch the excited look on your faces as you find each house with lights the most amazing house in the whole entire world.

I realize how fleeting this time is, and one day you may not want to wear Christmas jammies and drink hot chocolate with me. 

 And one day, if you decide to have a family of your own, we may not even be able to see each other on Christmas. This, of course, will be sad for me, but I want you to remember this: I will be fine.  I mean, you don't have to be jerks to me, but just know that I understand as life evolves, so do traditions.

Our traditions are based on being together because we love to be together. Not guilt. Not out of obligation.  Nothing sucks the joy out of Christmas than feeling stifled to keep a tradition that no longer fits.  I mean, how ridiculous would it be if we still were writing letters to Santa when you're 25, right?

Being a part of your lives will always be important to me, and because of that, I promise that I will not get hung up on the tradition that it becomes more important than the people who are celebrating.

Also, I am writing this as you are both only 4 and 7 years old, but I know how frustrating it can be to incorporate new and old traditions together.  Feel free to show me this because I know that I will want to buy you Christmas jammies (and calling them jammies) forever.

Love your favorite Christmas elf, 


Anonymous said...

Erin, my very favorite memories of Christmas is spending it with my Aunts and Uncles and cousins! We still take turns hosting Christmas Eve. I would miss seeing everyone, especially since we are all getting older. My kids have wonderful memories of all their cousins being together, playing games, opening gifts, eating junk! It didn't matter if they were tired on Christmas Day, that is when we stayed home and laid around and they played with all their new toys. Something is missing here.

Erin Janda Rawlings said...

I love watching my kids play with their cousins on Christmas Eve, too! It reminds me of when I was a kid. How nice that you are able to chill out on Christmas Day! We usually see my parents.

Anonymous said...

Your viewpoint is refreshing. Ashleigh and I were just discussing how our family traditions have evolved and adapted over the years. This is the last year she will be home for Christmas for the foreseeable future and that's ok, we'll deal and adapt because we love each other and Christmas is about love.

Aunt Diane

Anonymous said...

Don't you chill out at your parents house?? One day your parents will be to old to host Christmas Day and then you should have them at your house. My Mom was always with us when she got older. It's more than tradition, it's family.

Erin Janda Rawlings said...

It is sad when things change, but you are so right about Christmas being about love.

Erin Janda Rawlings said...

Actually, Anonymous, sometimes my parents and my mom's side of the family come over my house, and sometimes it is at another house. I wouldn't say we chill, but I would say we have a very pleasant time together.

Sounds like your traditions worked really well for you and your family. There are a lot of dynamics in ours that make it challenging to make all of the social events.

Anonymous said...

I am reading something entirely different in what your saying. This isn't a letter to your kids, it's something much deeper. I don't feel the need to identify myself and you don't know who I am. There are no "clues" this is just a conversation! Sorry, it sounds like your holidays weren't very happy ones. I will pray for you and your family.

Ashleigh said...

Actually, I've spent the past 30 years sharing the holidays with Erin and her family. We have great times every year, and I'm really excited to do it again next week!

Erin Janda Rawlings said...

Thanks, Ashleigh! We are going to have a blast! My gift for the exchange is awe.some.

Erin Janda Rawlings said...

Anonymous, I have thought a lot about what you said about my childhood Christmases not being happy. That is not true; they were happy. But since it has become too hard to juggle all of Christmas Eve/Christmas Day events, we have chosen to focus on our parents and making sure the kids have time with their cousins.

I feel sad that we can't make everything, and I feel sad that some traditions become so rigid that they do not allow any flexibility for the participants' evolving lives. By not attending something, that does not mean we don't love the people we aren't seeing. It just means that we realize we can't do it all and still be happy at the same time.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday with your kids.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading about the traditions you are making with your kids. You transported me back to my childhood. Every Christmas Eve my dad would drive us to visit Grandma. While we were gone, Santa would visit my house and drop off our presents. It was sooo exciting!! Trying to cram so any activities into the holidays can sometimes cause so much stress that we miss out on the importance of enjoying the little things. Your kids will treasure these memories forever. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane and have a Merry Christmas!!