Normally we start the annual APW holiday conversation in November or so. But many of you have requested that we do it NOW PLEASE. This is the time of year when we all start the dance of figuring out who, what, when, where, how…and hopefully taking a moment to really think about why. (Which reminds me to order the baby his first Halloween costume. Why? Because, adorable.)
As children, the holidays have a certain simplicity to them. They happen the way they happen because that is how they’ve always been. The complex negotiations about how to balance multiple families and what traditions to include generally happened before we could remember them. And then we partner up, and it’s suddenly not anywhere near that simple.
This will be our fifth holiday season as a married couple, and our tenth (TENTH) as a couple, so it seems like I should be able to give you clear advice. But every family is so different that the best I can do is tell you what I’ve learned. So, to celebrate the end of a decade (!) of couple-dom, here are the wisest words I’ve got:
- Listen to yourselves. Listen to each other. You and your partner are laying the groundwork of creating a new (or at least newly officially recognized) family. You’re not going to do that without breaking some hearts. You may well be used to doing what your parents say during the holidays, so when your mom tells you to come home, you feel like you have to. Guess what? You don’t. Adulthoooooooooood! Celebrate your complex newfound freedom by eating your pie before dinner.
- Experiment. No matter how hard you try, you’ll never re-create your childhood holidays, and that’s probably a good thing. The best way to create new family rituals and routines is often just to try different things out. Sometimes they’ll be a total bust; sometimes you’ll discover something awesome and new.
- It doesn’t have to be the same every year. Every Thanksgiving of my childhood was exactly the same. Almost every one of my coupled Thanksgivings has been different, and I’ve liked most of them. Highlights include one in England, one in New Mexico and also sort of Las Vegas, and one at home in our own apartment. Our family Thanksgiving tradition may simply be that you never know where you’ll find us.
- Find new traditions (big or little). A few years ago I bought Christmas Crackers in an attempt to convince David that Christmas was not, in fact, the worst thing ever invented. While I don’t think I succeeded in my goal, we do now love Christmas Crackers, and we bring them along with us every December 25th.
So now I’m throwing it to all of you, for some much needed conversation. What are your questions and problems? What have you learned? What are your plans for the year? What are you proudest of as we speed towards holiday time? (And a particular fist bump to the other interfaith families out there. I feel you. On all of it.)
Photo: Julie Randall