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Redefining Holiday Traditions

Redefining Holiday Traditions

Dec 1, 2011

I would like to bring back a post I wrote a few months ago.  It involves Family/Holiday traditions and how we reboot them or possibly change them to fit our new life with our adult children.  This holiday season, now that you are empty nesters, how are your family traditions changing?  Maybe not all of your adult children will be home and it could be the first time for this.  Maybe work keeps some from being there for Christmas Eve when the presents are usually opened.  Or maybe you might have a random suggestion from one of your children that might catch you a little off guard, like my husband and I were, regarding our holiday traditions.

It started with me thinking about one particular night years ago when I remember walking down the hall of our home upstairs where our three boys (elementary and middle school at that time) slept soundly and cozy in their beds.I distinctly recall stopping in the hall, looking toward each of their rooms and wanting so much to stop time. They were safe, under our roof, and all in their beds. Nothing could harm them. I want to always keep them safe, I thought. But time marched on and here we are today with three grown men all out from under our roof. It’s again time to reboot our relationship with our three boys and I guess even some of our holiday family traditions.  This is good and this is healthy.  It’s just that it brings on lots of growing pains in all of us.

I received a call last year from our youngest who was a senior in college at the time. Hey mom, he says. All three boys are pretty good about keeping in touch; but often when Paddy calls out of the blue there is something else he wants to say…..either he has injured himself or the car is broken down or a number of other possibilities. We got passed the small talk and then I heard, so mom, I need to talk with you about something. I immediately thought, which shoulder has been dislocated this time from one of his climbing adventures? But maybe that would have been easier to hear.

So mom, I was thinking about taking a trek on the Colorado Trail. Cool, I said, where’s the trail and when will you go. Paddy is an avid climber and guide. Well, it’s a different type of trail. I suddenly did not like where this was going. What kind of different trail? It’s 500 miles long and it goes from Denver to Durango and I want to do it in winter even though most people do it in the summer. At this point all kinds of red flags go up and alarms begin to go off. Danger, alert! Winter means avalanches, son, not to mention blizzards. Yeah, that’s definitely a possibility, mom. Hmmmm, if that wasn’t enough, my mind then goes to our protected Family Chirstmas time and family traditions or is it protected anymore now that they are adults? I don’t know, things are changing. We’re rebooting.

Paddy continued on in a very calm manner, So mom, I know now that you and Dad are empty nesters, you’re looking for new traditions. I was thinking that maybe the family could come up to the mountains for Christmas and I can trek on into a cabin for a couple of days that you rent up there and we can celebrate the holiday together. I tried to stay calm and begin to ask questions.

Well, yes, we would like to start new traditions now that you boys are out of the house and adults. I thought to myself in the blink of a moment, this isn’t quite what I had in mind. I was thinking of new traditions such as new foods on the Christmas buffet table. So who would you go with I asked. Yeah, that’s a detail I need to figure out. Have many people done this in winter? No, I would be one of the few and most likely I’d be doing a few days here and there alone. Well, that word alone is not one that moms or dads really like to hear…..more alarms, more whistles.

My first reaction was that I wanted to drive 4 hours up to his school, throw him in the car, bring him home and safely lock him in his childhood room and yell out to him, are you out of your mind; yet, I continued to stay calm remembering the key word “reboot” the way you engage your children; and so I ask, how long is this trek. Probably about a month he said; but don’t worry mom, I’m experienced. Experienced? Couldn’t we all just go to the sledding hill in Fraiser for a day and call it good? Oh, and mom, I really want to trek for a cause. It was like I was on a freaking roller coaster. One minute I was screaming within in me, my son is going to die and then, the next minute calmly thinking, what a great heart he has. This was too much, “rebooting” is too hard.

I had reached a crossroads in this conversation and I now had a choice to make. I could go back to being a mom of elementary children and even high schoolers and respond that way. What the heck are you thinking, this is ridiculous. You could die. No, I won’t allow this. I’m calling your dad right now. Then I could begin crying on the phone about how I really wanted our family to be all together at Christmas. That would be a good touch for guilt purposes. Or, I could respond as a M.O.M. (mom of men). This is indeed what I attempted to do, but I would not want a final grade on it.

Well son, I said as I’m dying on the inside and thinking about what his father will have to say too, let’s talk about this a little more when we have time and your dad can be in on the conversation. Being together at Christmas has always been important to us you know. I know mom, it’s important to me too. Well, O.K. mom, I’ve got to get into class, I just wanted to pass the thought by you. Pass it by me I thought. I couldn’t think about anything else all day. I was so looking forward to having all three boys home for Christmas and settling into our secure family traditions; and at home, not in some random cabin in the middle of a snow field…..and the rebooting begins!

It’s important to let go of some things and take on the new.  When suddenly we realize we now have adult children and we are empty nesters, the holidays and traditions are bound to change.  We can fight it and be miserable or grieve it for a while and then move on to the new.  I choose the latter, how about you?  Let us know your experience, great ideas, or struggles with holiday traditions now that you are empty nesters!



  1. Rajean Shepherd /

    I loved your heart-warming story about redefining Holiday traditions. Thanks for sharing!

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