Tl;dr: how do you blend family traditions successfully?
The fairy tales don’t cover the very important fact that when you marry (or in any other way connect deeply) another person, you are also marrying their traditions, their families, and their memories. Cinderella and friends make it seem as though two independent individuals can get together, form a unit, and then begin their lives from some sort of rarefied blank slate. I assume. Fairy tales never actually get into the nitty-gritty of the ever after.
While I don’t strive to live up to a fairy tale, I grew up with the trappings of what my mother and sister like to call a White Picket Fence family or a Little Golden Book Family. I think that’s ridiculous not only because it’s impossible, two-dimensional, and unattainable but because those books didn’t prominently feature mental illness and its consequences. But, on a very surface level, I have a fair amount of Norman Rockwell story-lines in my past.
Now and then, Debra relays some piece of family history or experience for which I don’t have context. Even without fully understanding, it helps me form an evolving picture of her family life which in turn supports our ability to blend traditions and create a reasonable reality for RR. But I often forget at the outset of each new beginning that my own experiences aren’t the same for us both and are not the correct route in any way.
Enter Easter. This is our 5th with RR and probably the first that she’s really remembered what happened last year and generated some expectations. It’s also the first year that she’s understood candy as a thing that has value.
My childhood Easter basket? A handful of jelly beans scattered into some grass in a basket, a chocolate bunny, and (in the early days) a small stuffed toy. When I got older we also got a couple of Cadbury eggs. There was an egg hunt for my two sisters and I after church, still clad in matching Easter dresses, usually consisting of two dozen hard boiled and dyed eggs and another dozen plastic eggs with jelly beans inside. Munching of jellybeans before breakfast was not happening. And, if I recall, those baskets disappeared the next day, candy along with them. Debra’s childhood basket looked nothing like this. As I understand it, there was a candy extravaganza and a few toys. I’ll bet she got to eat as many jellybeans as she wanted.
RR’s basket conundrum. I did not get the right kind of jellybeans (my family: strict adherence to large, traditional beans. Debra’s family: small beans, tropical beans.) I wanted to strip out the packaging (my family: preserve the Easter Bunny mystery. Debra’s family: who cares about the boxes?) My number of jellybeans did not align with my wife’s. My idea of how many toys should be in my child’s life did not align with my wife’s. My idea of how much candy one child should get to eat did not align with my wife’s. How did we not discover this in the previous 4 years?
And so, RR ate a lot of candy before breakfast and added another stuffed bunny to her collection. She had a wonderful time hunting stuffed plastic eggs. She and my wife spent almost an hour playing with a bubble wand. And, I shiver to admit it, went to brush her teeth for bed having just knocked back another handful of beans. It was a perfectly fine Easter, basket-wise.
That said, how do I keep from being a candy and toy scrooge? We’re probably safe until Halloween but I still have to negotiate a basket’s worth of sweet goodness. There’s a tradition at stake here for someone and, while I’m willing to let go, I can’t seem to like letting go. Suggestions?
Filed under: Sixth Year | Tagged: everyone else, holidays, M/D | 10 Comments »