A year of family traditions
I won’t lie—my family life today doesn’t look like how I pictured it would years ago. Instead of the big puppy pile of kids, it’s one little puppy flopping on me. Instead of the super-hot best-friend/partner/coparent, it’s me googling my way through decisions and trying to understand what life is even like for my married friends. Instead of the full to bursting holiday tables, it’s often a hike and a quiet dinner. Instead of the romantic and familiar date nights with my one true ride-or-die partner in crime, it’s all the awkward first dates I can handle. But that doesn’t mean my life isn’t as beautiful, lucky, and warm as any other. The way it seems like it is supposed to be doesn’t have to be the way you live it.
Things I will take over my old vision of family any day: My kid inventing the name “Mommydaddy” for me, getting love notes from friends on Father’s Day, having that super-close relationship with my child as only a single parent can, skipping some holidays, guilt-free Christmases, no holiday family drama . . . that is how my family does it, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
The start of the year brings with it my family’s most important holiday—Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. We talk about that man all year long, and we love it when everyone else is talking about him, too. It’s the best possible note to start a new year on.
A couple weeks later, on the last Saturday of the month, the most fun party of the year takes place right in our neighborhood! One resident shares his huge, old Victorian house with the public. Musicians are in each room you wander in, jamming on an incredible variety of instruments. I love how this annual event also marks my child’s growth—measuring him against the instruments and staircases, and by how he makes his way around the place, going from room to room.
In late winter we like to play in the snow, often as a trip with friends. I have learned a lot about resilience by seeing how impervious my child is to the freezing cold. He takes so much joy in it. The wet and icy snow does not stop him, and even after many hours, it is hard to get him to come inside.
Spring brings cherry orchard visits and our annual Memorial Day weekend camping trip of raking leaves off an entire campground with amazing salt-of-the-earth friends.
In the fall we take a long road trip, just the two of us, and it is my favorite feeling to sink into it together—partners on the wide, open road. In November we “undo” Thanksgiving at an event put on by indigenous folks and other activists that centers on the true story of the holiday and on rethinking the meaning of “Thanksgiving” as most Americans know it.
I love having special family traditions to look forward to and talk about each month, but on “regular” days, there is also the following:
- The ever-growing, fantastical picnic story we build on every night at bedtime
- The way I say the same exact thing every night as I close his bedroom door, blowing each other kisses and pretending to eat them with gusto
- How my child hilariously corrects my pronunciation of croissant every time we go out for coffee and pastries
- The richness of partnering with friends on parenting decisions
- Reading books on the beach while he frolics around for hours dragging clumps of seaweed
- Reading aloud to him from my own books while he plays so he will stop and ask me about the meanings of the big words
- The gardens and farms and friends’ homes we frequent throughout the year
- Baking strawberry cakes and buttery rounds of cornbread together
- Weekly trips to the library (where everyone knows our names)
I bet you have just as many sweet and unique family traditions of your own. Tell us about them in the comments below. Your ESME Sisters love to learn from and be inspired by one another!
Beck List is an environmental scientist and writer living with her five-year-old future comedian in California. She has lived through plenty of her own trials and tribulations—and you can read more tips on her blog, BeckList.
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