Last Updated on December 28, 2019 by World’s Okayest Mom
Who doesn’t love a wonderful, family holiday tradition?
I often think that family traditions are one of those areas that has earned me the title of World’s Okayest Mom. I’m not great with them. I love the idea of family traditions and memories that My Girl will tell her children about for years. But in reality, it’s really not me. More often than not, we forget to carve pumpkins for Halloween; we usually decorate Easter eggs the day before because I completely forgot to do it earlier and need to buy egg dye; and there’s no special birthday morning tradition except possibly waking My Girl up late and then nagging her to move faster. Wait… that’s our tradition every morning.
But Christmas. Christmas is magical and special and …
I try to be better at Christmas traditions, I guess is the point. “Try” is the key word.
I have fond memories of Christmas when I was a child: mainly cutting down the Christmas tree with my dad. Think the opening scene of Christmas Vacation, with a little less drama. Definitely no family caroling. No station wagon. Very little road rage. Ok, so nothing like Christmas Vacation but fun and memorable nonetheless.
The plan has always been to carry on that tradition with My Girl. But reality is she’s never even been to a Christmas tree farm.
First, it was just The Husband and I, pre-My Girl. So we put up a fake tree. More specifically, we stole a fake tree from my father-in-law, who may still be wondering where he stored that tree. (Shhhhh… Don’t tell him.)
Then, when My Girl was born, she was too little for us to bother with a tradition she wouldn’t remember anyways. Then, as children tend to do, she got older, but I had new carpeting in the living room. When I was little, the mess made by a real Christmas tree was of little consequence to My Mom. We didn’t exactly have wall to wall carpeting. It was just a piece of carpet that fit our rooms-ish. I actually didn’t know carpeting was supposed to fit from baseboard to baseboard until about age 15. But now that I know… I didn’t want the leaking, sappy tree on my new carpet.
Cut to My Girl being age 8. For the last two years, I have told The Husband we’re going to cut down a tree, throw some lights on it and set it up on the front porch. (Pat myself on the back fro such a wonderful compromise between clean house and fun family tradition.) But I repeat: My Girl hasn’t even been to a Christmas tree farm and I am the epitome of #themomfail.
The Results of My Attempted Traditions
But we aren’t without traditions. It’s just that our family traditions never quite end up the way I envisioned, or the way they are portrayed on Pinterest. Looking at the few traditions I have tried to keep alive over the years, I see they have resulted in some strange and unforeseen results.
Sharing our favorite Christmas movies with My Girl has been a staple to the holiday season over the last few years. I’m concerned what it says about our family that a part of our traditions (and probably the one My Girl will most likely remember) is watching TV. The English major in me may have just died a little bit. But there it is.
As a child, watching White Christmas with my great grandmother is one of the clearest memories I have of the holidays. I believe we watched the wonderful classic on my grandma’s Beta machine, in between reruns of The Lawrence Welk Show. To this day, I must watch White Christmas at least once a year, preferably while wrapping Christmas presents and drinking spiked hot cider. This year, I made Monica sit through it with me. I don’t think she enjoyed it. The Husband calls the movie “an acquired taste.”
Sharing The Christmas Story and Elf with her last year were special, and My Girl – not at all surprising if you have met her – is now a big Will Ferrell fan. She thinks Buddy the Elf is not only her long-lost best friend and a genius, but also 100% real. We will deal with the backlash of finding out the truth later.
This year, The Husband and I were very excited to share the Home Alone series with her – the pizza delivery boy prank, the after shave, the flying paint cans. Very excited. Until we got about halfway through the movie and I remembered who we were showing this to… My Girl laughed a little too hard at the booby trap scenes. Ok, a lot too hard. Do I need to be on the lookout for a tar and feather set up?
In hindsight, that probably wasn’t our best parenting move. We already know from our time watching Wonder that My Girl is easily swayed by movie characters (see here, if you missed it). So, I wasn’t really surprised when a week later (and also a viewing of Home Alone 2 and Home Alone 3 later), My Girl sweetly asked if we had extra Christmas ornaments she could place under her window. I nervously told her we did not. She said no problem, she would use Legos.
At that point, I was impressed by her ingenuity and a little concerned for my own safety. Then she hit me with this zinger:
“Don’t worry, Momma. I’m not using any fire.”
I hadn’t worried about that specifically. But now I do.
In the end, her room was booby trapped Home Alone style: Legos in the doorway, a bag of feathers ready to be thrown in the robber’s eyes (since she couldn’t find anything sticky) and a bag of toys she was trying to rig to fall open on the robber’s head.
It wasn’t just us sharing this classic movie with our children. Chandler and Monica were across the street doing the same thing. Jane and Little LuLu also became Home Alone fans, though it affected them differently.
Recently, while making gingerbread houses with the girls (another fun tradition we have), The Husband started stealing candy bits from their building reserves. Finally, Little LuLu yelled at him:
“You sneaky little punk!”
We decided that must have been Home Alone inspired. And also hysterical.
The Gift Giving
Probably my favorite Christmas tradition is taking My Girl shopping to pick out her own presents. My parents did this for me as a child. We took a family trip to the dollar store and I could pick out gifts for my friends, grandparents, cousins, whomever. I usually insisted on paying with my own money. The Husband and I fork out the dollar per gift for My Girl. Generous, I know.
We usually spend 45 minutes in Dollar Tree letting her roam up and down the aisles with a list of people she wants to buy for: grandparents, a few buddies from school, the Chandler/Monica family, some favored neighbors.
Gifts this year included a frame for a picture My Girl has been drawing/coloring for a grandparent (said grandparent hasn’t received the gift yet, so I’m keeping it vague to retain suspense); Frozen 2 something or other for the huge fan that is Little Lulu; a vase with fake flowers for Mrs. Irwin; things like that.
My Girl is a master gift-picker-outer. Very practical and very thoughtful. Some of her best gifts include:
- Laundry detergent for Great Grandma. Ultimately, The Husband and I talked her out of this, but in our earlier married and broke years, I wouldn’t have said no to laundry detergent as a gift. Maybe not the brand bought at the dollar store though…
- A doggy chew toy for Baby-est Cousin last year. To her credit, it looked like something a baby could also chew on. Wisely, though, I think his mother declined to let Baby-est Cousin chew on it.
- Fake mustaches for Papa Troublemaker. As his name would imply, My Girl has a wonderful time picking out joke gifts for him. (It’s reciprocal; once he put chili-flavored seaweed in her Easter basket.) This year, without giving away the surprise, I’ll just say it’s poo related. Last year, she bought these terribly cheap and fake mustaches. The entire family had a blast putting them on and taking pictures.
While it’s so much fun to see what she picks out for everyone, the sentimental side of me just loves sharing the season of giving with her. And it warms my heart that picking out cheap and probably soon to be thrown-away or forgotten gifts is also one of her favorite family traditions.
The Lights Display
One of our last traditions that we’ve been capable of carrying throughout the years is looking at Christmas lights. That’s always been a favorite of mine, though not so much The Husband’s. In fact, he proposed to me a few days before Christmas (ions ago). The set up to get me out on that memorable date was that we were going to drive around the town and look at Christmas lights. We didn’t. He surprised me with a beautiful diamond ring instead. As thrilled as I was, I later did ask him with a little disappointment in my voice: “So are we not going to see Christmas lights?”
We were not.
But as My Girl also loves the pretty lights, The Husband makes a point to take her. There’s a small town about an hour from our house that puts on a spectacular light display. If a town of 300 people can have a claim to fame, this is theirs. (If you’re in my neck of the woods, you should check it out.)
So we usually pile into the car, often taking a few other family members, and drive the hour to see the Christmas decorations. We’ll stop halfway to get hot chocolate. We’ll listen to Christmas songs. We’ll enjoy our family time.
It’s a great tradition, but again, I often wonder what we’re thinking. While My Girl loves the lights, she’s not so great with the riding in the car (motion sickness often) or with the sitting still or with the waiting quietly. So, really, all of it.
On top of that, we jack her up on sugar and chocolate in the form of McDonald’s hot cocoa.
The trip usually ends with The Husband gripping the steering wheel tightly and passing every car driving less then 65 miles per hour in a rush to get home, me trying to ignore a headache from the lights and the sounds of My Girl, and My Girl nursing a sugar coma in the backseat.
Ah, family traditions.
This year, we revised the tradition a bit. We saw the Christmas lights at our local zoo, where My Girl (and Jane and Little LuLu) were still expected to sit in the car for a nice ride, but were then allowed to run around a darkened zoo. Still hyped up on hot chocolate and marshmallows.
At least they were able to run some of the sugar off, but this time, we had the added risk of losing her in the zoo, possibly to the American buffalo which she was taunting.
But these are the things of lasting memories, right?