This year, child #2 flew to Atlanta for a wedding the day after Thanksgiving. She missed the Great Tree Cutting last year on account of being a couple thousand miles away in Guatemala. I could not let her miss it again. We could not go before the flight because child #3 had gymnastics practice at school. (Turns out, we should have skipped practice and cut the tree, since she sprained her elbow that morning and was out for a week, but hindsight, you know.)
Parents of older children, you know this drill. It's called “My Kids' Schedules Are More Complicated than a NASA Liftoff.” With one in college, one working full time, and one in a sport in high school, getting all three in the same place at the same time is like trying to get Halley's Comet to jump through the rings of Saturn.
But I've noticed a funny thing. The harder it gets, the more they want it to work. It's like the farther they go away from the things of childhood and make their own futures, the more they cling to the solid things of their past. Those things that just always were. Like a tree on Friday. A gingerbread extravaganza sometime in the vicinity of Christmas. (That one's not so particular on time. We've been known to do it in January.) A birthday breakfast out with mom.
I remember having to cook the huge Thanksgiving dinner the year my mom died. Keep in mind, cooking was not then nor is it now one of my spiritual gifts. I hadn't a clue. But I knew somewhere inside it had to be done, then more than ever. So I invited all the siblings, I cooked, and no one got poisoned so far as I know.
I don't mean we need to keep traditions in a legalistic sort of way—like “you will do this or else be cut out of the will." We got our tree on Sunday. Faced with the choice of doing it on the traditional day or doing it together, we chose together. Modifications and compromise become absolutely necessary.
It's so much more difficult to keep these things solid as they get older and go on to their own hopes and dreams and traditions. But I'm realizing, that's when it gets the most important. We think it's when they're little we need to keep the traditions alive the most. Really? We need to when it's the hardest. Whether that be because of illness, death, or distance, the time to keep the solid things solid is when everything else is too fluid to walk on.
It's worth fighting for those rock solid things that make you the "whole" you are together rather than just individual people joined by DNA. Keep up the fight.
What's your favorite family tradition?