Now that the holidays are over, the adrenaline has faded and our children are no longer in a constant state of hyperactivity. The nostalgia of the holiday season may have expired, but the memories will last a lifetime, and I am grateful for all the time I was able to spend with my family. Although I enjoy the holiday season, and taking part in family traditions, I am eternally grateful that we’re back on a more normal schedule.
Prior to Christmas, I was struggling personally with the strained relationship I have with my older daughters. It pained me that we hadn’t seen each other, and hardly spoke with one another after having some heated arguments almost a year ago. How do I heal all the hurt, get past all the misunderstandings, while the holidays grow closer and the pressure for fostering the perfect relationship is heavy on my mind? With perfect timing, Sarina suggested we invite them over for Christmas Eve. This day is a festive and elaborate tradition for her family, but entirely new to my family. I was worried that having them over would be awkward, but I also knew Sarina would be able to plan out the day perfectly, and ensure everyone’s comfort. After suggesting they come over, she reminded me that the “perfect relationship” I was hoping for exists only in my mind, and is unobtainable. I should instead try to be happy and at peace with the relationship that they’re capable of having.
I took her advice. My girls joined us for Christmas Eve, and then again on Christmas Day at my parents’ home. It was a beautiful start. They brought thoughtful gifts and were a blessing to be around. Since the holidays, we have seen them both again several times, and they also joined us this past weekend for my nephew’s ninth birthday. They are amazing young women who are in the process of figuring out who they are, and who they want to be. I am glad I was able to have them over to be a part of our new traditions, and anticipate being a more present part of their lives going forward.
From the time I was young, family traditions have always been a special part of my life. My grandma Sadler started what became my favorite tradition, which was gifting a Denver Broncos jersey each year for Christmas. I took it for granted, never thinking there would be a year that there wasn’t an Elway jersey for me under the tree. I never realized how important an influence this would be on me until after she passed away; I was only sixteen, one year older than my son is now. The last Elway jersey she ever gave me I gave to a homeless man in Prague days before she passed away.
I have always tried to communicate the importance of traditions with my children, expressing how physical possessions often lose their value, while sentimental gifts are irreplaceable, and their value grows with time. Yet, sometimes I struggle with the feeling that I haven’t done enough, haven’t provided enough, haven’t purchased as many gifts as everyone else. I then feel compelled to spoil our children, give them everything, allow them to want for nothing. After the anxiety of realizing my eyes are bigger than my bank account has passed, I come to terms with understanding they don’t really need all this stuff. What they need is nurturing, kindness, and the understanding that they are loved endlessly, and will always have their family behind them in all that they do.
This reminds me of how I got my love and passion for gardening. As you may already know, my mother had raised me in her garden; what you may not know is that she developed the same love from her father. I suppose it is natural for me to have my hands in the dirt; gardening is as much a part of me as my love for the Broncos is. As a child I played in the garden and snacked on carrots that I rinsed off in the pool (my mom loved that!) I played in tree houses and played tackle football in irrigation. It wasn’t a life that revolved around TV and video games. It was less about “how much are you giving me,” and more about spending time together.
Last year we discussed the sentimental reasons for everything we do during the Christmas season. It was important to Jonathan to hear where our traditions come from. We shared stories about our genealogy. He learned he was related to Harald Fairhair, the first king of Norway (on the Sadler side,) and General Patton (on the Miller side.) This year we not only spoke about our family, but also Sarina’s family. She made tons of food; some of it a traditional staple for her family, some foods that are newer to her lineup, and she told us about where each her recipes came from.
Why do our children disassociate from our beloved traditions? Where did our kids learn this behavior? By watching us. We’ve become reliant on technology to take the place of doing things the “old fashioned way,” and reduced many of the things we love into a distant memory. If we want to keep our traditions alive, we need to keep them present in our minds, and remind our children of their importance each and every year.