Three Glitter Hearts :: Christmas Traditions Don’t Have To Be Rigid

Three Glitter Hearts :: Christmas Traditions Don’t Have To Be Rigid

“Mommy! It’s a glitter heart!” My three year old precariously hangs his third heart-shaped ornament on a single Christmas tree branch. “Three, like me!” he says, gesturing to the overcrowded spot. “He (the heart ornament, presumably) needed to be with his friends.” When we first got married, my husband and I had the traditional disagreements on our first married Christmas. In my family, Santa didn’t wrap presents. In his family, all gifts arrived wrapped. In my family, our Christmas tree was perfectly planned and color coordinated. In his family, ornaments were bespoke and sentimental. While my husband started collecting individual ornaments, I steadfastly relegated them to smaller tabletop trees while I maintained my larger pristine designer tree. As our life marched on we added babies to our family and ornaments to our collection. Ornaments celebrating our first married Christmas. Ornaments for each year the boys were in daycare and school. Ornaments containing their newborn hats and hospital bands. Our ornament collection became like a family scrapbook I opened every December. I conceded and bought a new larger tree to accommodate these precious memories while – much to my husband’s amusement – I refused to budge on my still-larger but admittedly generic tree.

Three glitter heart ornaments on a Christmas tree.

Finally the day came when the boys were old enough to help decorate for Christmas. And they wanted to help decorate everything with gusto. They wanted to put three heart ornaments on one branch of my “pretty” tree. They wanted to put all the white snowflakes right in the middle of the tree with nothing else around them. They didn’t care about what it looked like last year or what I thought it should look like in my mind’s eye. They just wanted to be kids making Christmas memories with their mom without being micromanaged. And for the first time in my life, I didn’t care how my “pretty” tree looked. Why was I micromanaging something as inconsequential as the placement of plastic bulbs on a tree anyway? Simple: I was holding onto an idea that served me in the past without considering that it was no longer useful to my family in the present. Traditions don’t have to be rigid. They can bend with the values of the people that hold them dear. What fun is Christmas if the traditions you’re passing on don’t matter to people you love? Letting go of control helped me to find the beauty in my kids’ excitement. Refocusing priorities on their creativity opened my heart to child-like joy that I haven’t experienced in years. One day my kids will not want to decorate any tree, big or small, coordinated or hodgepodge, with me. They will outgrow receiving the magic that Christmas brings for young children and hopefully transition into magic makers themselves. But I will remember these days when my kids clung as close to me as the three hearts on our tree, wishing to recapture that magic of young childhood for once more.


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