I think all young families, whether consciously or not, spend a lot of time figuring out what their traditions will look like. Will they look the same as when they were growing up or will they be the exact opposite of when they were growing up? Is there something your spouse’s family loves that you don’t? Is there a tradition you always wished you had and now you feel like you can finally implement it?
Traditions don’t have to be grand or involved. I strive to make sure our traditions do nothing but bring joy- not stress, lots of forethought, cost lots of money, or require a ton of time. This is easier said than done when it’s Thanksgiving morning and you are trying to make sure everyone has their favorite dish, prepared their favorite way, to preserve the pleasure of their favorite bite. That is why the traditions I love most are the small, seeming inconsequential, silly ones. The things my parents didn’t even know made an impression on me. Maybe they do now that I am an adult and appreciate them (both the traditions and my parents) much more than I did when I was young. Like how every time we pulled into the driveway after a long day away from home or a weekend road trip my mother would say “home again, home again, jiggity jog” without fail. Now, when I say it (or better yet, when one of my boys remembers to say it) I am transported right into the back seat while flashes of my childhood adventures, family gatherings, and sporting events we would be returning from run through my memory.
I often wonder what my kids will think of me, the mom of their childhood, when they are older. If I had to take a guess today, I think they’d say I was an impatient, all-to-loud dictator! Lack-of-sleep, winter temperatures sticking around well past their welcome, and a carousel of germs have finally got the better of me. I have been beaten. I know the last week was not the best of my young mothering career. But, then I remembered two bright spots. Teeny weeny, but bright, and I am choosing to concentrate on those instead of the 17 times I lost my temper (perhaps a little bit justified, but probably never really necessary)! If you are one of the handful of people that follow me on Instagram, this will be old news!
Bright Spot #1: Saint Patrick’s Day. I am 50% Irish. My first name is Erin and I have red hair and freckles, but growing up we never did anything for Saint Patrick’s Day except wear the obligatory green shirt. Somehow, I have not had a green shirt for at least the last 5 years- and each year on March 17 that is a surprise to me! So, last Monday night, I had to run to the grocery store for bread. While I was there, I picked up 4 store-made cupcakes with shamrock charms on top thinking that at least we would mention the day and have a treat. For whatever reason, the next day when I woke up and it was Saint Patrick’s Day, I felt bad that I was letting it go by without putting in any effort. And without using the day to do something fun with or for my kids. I tried to think of what I had on-hand that could turn into something we’d all enjoy. Then it came to me- I had a bag of potatoes in the pantry. And I had green food coloring. We could have green potato chips with dinner! Hooray! (note: this also falls into my mission to try new things this year. I have never made homemade potato chips! I highly recommend them. I turned to Martha Stewart for the best way to make them, and ours were baked.) My toddler joined me at the counter to watch me slice the potatoes and together we mixed up the olive oil, seasonings, and food coloring. He was pretty excited to see everything turn green. Into the oven they went. Out out of oven they came. Green, crispy, and delicious! There we have it. A new, simple, fun tradition that everyone enjoys and I think they will remember. Green potato chips on Saint Patrick’s Day.
Bright Spot #2: On that same trip to the grocery store, when I realized I was actually alone, I stopped to pick up 3 pinwheels at the craft store. Each day at lunch, we eat in front of patio doors that look out onto our backyard. Last year I had the idea to surprise my boys by adding pinwheels to the garden on the first day of spring. They loved it and we watched those pinwheels spin every day after that. It never got old. I even know a little pinwheel ditty: “Pinwheel, pinwheel, where have you been. Hello, how are you and won’t you come in?” (I think it’s from a show I used to watch on Nickelodeon?) This year it is not-so-spring-like. I had to stake the pinwheels into the snow, because the ground is still frozen. But, the kids didn’t care. They were so excited! The idea that the “spring fairy” brought them only lasted a second- my oldest immediately exclaimed that I must be the fairy. It didn’t matter though. They were surprised, happy to see some color in the backyard, and I was feeling great that I actually I remembered this year. Another little tradition that is simple and fun. In a few years, our garden will be full of pinwheels and our view will be brilliantly colored, no matter how long winter decides to stay each year.
If I can accumulate more moments like these two, my kids may be able to add silly and fun to their description of me as a young mom! With a house full of 3 boys less than five years apart, I will certainly need to be tough, strict, and clearly in-charge a lot of the time. But, let’s hope those times only serve to help us get through the day and that the moments of whimsy are what make a lasting impression.