I am really big on traditions. In fact, when I told my mom that one of the things that drew me to the Catholic Church was the deeply rooted Traditions, she said, “that doesn’t surprise me. You’ve always been very into traditions”. And it’s true. I don’t really remember presents I got on Christmas, or what anyone said and did, but I remember the traditions. I remember the apple cider while we decorated the Christmas tree. I remember the new pajamas on Christmas Eve, I remember driving down Thoroughbred to look at the lights (non-locals, that is a street in the area I grew up that had MASSIVE outdoor lights displays, all in one neighborhood. There would be lines of cars driving through to look at the Christmas lights). I remember family dinners and playing games as a family (I miss that so so much). As we got older, things were different, but there were still these things. They didn’t change.
And now, as the one with young kids, I’m passing on these traditions to my own kids and starting new ones. We give the boys new pajamas on Christmas Eve (and are starting a new tradition where they also get a new Christmas movie and we make a night of it), we take the boys to see Santa, we have hot chocolate and watch the snow fall (or, we will when the snow falls… supposed to snow next week!), we decorate the tree after Monkey’s birthday, we bake cookies together and read Christmas books together. And today we celebrate the Feast day of Saint Nicholas. This morning the boys woke up to find oranges and (chocolate) coins in their shoes, and candy canes hanging on the tree. We talked about how Saint Nicholas was a real man who gave gifts to poor children to help them, and how we celebrate that generosity today when we give gifts to others.
And most of the time, after putting out effort to make Christmas mean something to my young kids, I feel sad. It doesn’t really feel like Monkey understands. I lay in bed wondering if he’s absorbed any of it. I know he loves his “tomorrow” (chocolate advent calendar which he thinks is called “tomorrow”, because whenever he points at it and whines, indicating he wants more, I say, “tomorrow”). I know he loves the lights and the cookies, but does he know it’s special? Is it special to him? I don’t know. And it hurts my heart a little bit. I wonder if he’ll understand next year, the joy and anticipation of Christmas. Will he grasp The love and the giving and the happiness of the season next year? I don’t know. I hope so.
I read this blog post by A Diary of a Mom, where she talks about her daughter Brooke (who has autism) finally showing that she gets this whole Christmas thing. And I thought, there is hope. This isn’t all for nothing, because even if he doesn’t let on that he’s grasping this stuff and tucking it away in his mind, maybe he is. So I carry on with my silly traditions. And I hope that one day I can learn what they mean to him, and share them with both my kids. And maybe my silly little brain will just have to expand to a new idea, something better and something real for us. Sometimes traditions are made new to adapt to new people. And that’s okay.