A few weeks ago during a small-ish ladies event, for our conversation starter activity we were asked to finish this sentence: (Out-loud. One by one.)
“It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without…”
Since I shelved the art of lying to try to sound as ‘normal’ as possible, years ago, for my response I chose to go with a blank stare, and added, “I don’t really know, I have never really thought about it, maybe…macaroni casserole?” as my answer.
Really. Macaroni casserole? Nice.
It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without macaroni casserole.
I talk a big game about the importance of breaking generational cycles, so as I over-analyzed my response after I got home that night, I knew for sure that even if a long list of specific, handed-down family traditions didn’t flood my mind in relation to Thanksgiving, (because there aren’t any in my family) we have been working on building new things for our children, within our family.
I have just been focused on other things. In my ten short years of sober time I spent the first five in complete awe that I was somehow still alive in the first place to enjoy the blessing of being around on the holidays. The last five I spent in awe of how present I am actually capable of being and how exhilarating and fulfilling it is to be able to retain memories and recall them later.
So maybe instead of macaroni casserole, I should have said: “Being alive is pretty dope and I also think it is cool that I can remember making memories with my family and friends.”
For people who grew up drowning in dysfunction and inconsistency, building holiday traditions worth passing on can feel impossible to accomplish.
As a young adult I was on a mission to change things for my oldest son. I can remember how overwhelming the idea of ‘breaking generational cycles’ felt to me. Hadn’t I already ruined him? I had already exposed him to the same things I was exposed to. The idea of change just felt too big. Here I was already blindly stumbling around adulthood, still learning to navigate in healthy ways. Never-mind plugging in new traditions for my son to pass down to his kids or leaving a legacy behind on this earth someday that is worth a shit. It felt like too much to sort out.
I was pretty surprised (and relieved) when I realized that any and all drastic life-change happens the same way: One new, different, healthy choice at a time. It wasn’t as complicated as I was making it.
I knew that in order to make a drastic turn in a new direction, I had to commit and stick to making small changes, even if I couldn’t see things changing.
Over time, just like with my recovery from drugs and alcohol, my reality began to shift and suddenly I was living my new normal.
I still get excited talking about how much impact the culmination of small choices can have on our lives, and by default, the lives of our children.
So don’t lost heart. Don’t give up.
If you are making purposeful choices, then you are actively chipping away at generational dysfunction. Even if you can’t see it now, gradually, over time, you will begin to see results. The past doesn’t matter. What matters is you are building the new things.
For me, I know that I am not trying to offer my children a perfect mom. (Anyone who knows me knows that I am comfortably flawed and not pretending to be super mom). I can’t give them a life with no pain, hurt, or life’s inevitable ups and downs.
I have just chosen to try to saturate them with as much love and as many new options as I can, (and holidays and memories that are obviously lacking things like police sirens, violence, arrests, fist-fights, or people who are inebriated and puking on their own shoes).
So today I want you to try this with me.
Answer this question with your own answers:
It just wouldn’t be Christmas without……
Everyone (4 boys) making fun of me for putting the tree up so early.
(It’s become an annual thing)
Baking cookies together on Christmas Eve
Taking the kids to choose a gift for each parent
Reading the Biblical story of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Eve
Everyone wearing Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve
Driving through our local festival of lights together
Watching our favorite movies over and over, but saving The Christmas Story for Christmas Eve
Going to grandma’s house Christmas morning after breakfast
Whatever your response, no matter many you listed off-
Those are your family things.
Do them again next year, and they are now your family’s traditions.
Those are the things that your kids will look back and remember, and most likely, do with their kids as well.
The best part is, you can start anytime, anywhere and it is never too late to start plugging new things in. You can start small. Maybe every Tuesday you will cook tacos, or every Friday you will order pizza. Take a walk around the block on Wednesday nights, start going to church together on Sundays, cook pancakes on Saturday mornings, play a board game on Sunday afternoons.
There are so many different ways to build new things within the walls of your home and the hearts and minds of your kids. There really are no wrong answers and the only requirement is you continuing to try. The more good you plug-in, the less impact power the negative stuff will have.
And no. This isn’t the answer to end generational drug-use that seems to plague families. (Families like mine.) But this is a small, easy, free way to begin to change direction.
So let’s continue to change things and please remember that you aren’t alone in this thing.