Traditions, resolutions, and the quest for stabilizing family influences

BlogHer Original Post

I spent a little time today searching the Net for New Year's traditions, both old and new. My little family needs the aura of stability created by tradition. If I had had more time, I would've celebrated Kwanzaa this year, a celebration with family-grounding traditions, but my life was a little too chaotic this December, which was par for the course in 2007 and previous years.

In the last five years my little family of three has been through a stabilization shredder with trauma after trauma--divorce, severe financial distress, life-threatening illnesses, school changes, and moves. I am grateful that today we have the semblance of outward stability—a secure place to live, food on the table, daily destinations that keep us productive, etc., but I look at my children, one grown and one near adulthood, and wonder do they possess enough inner stability—that sense of security that comes from being grounded not only in family but in place, time, and community, of knowing who you are in this world.

As a young woman, I did not cherish tradition. To me tradition seemed to be a cloak that covered serious spiritual and emotional deficiencies. We went to church but disguised our faults rather than transformed. We met at the matriarch's house for fantastic holiday feasts, but secret resentments roiled and rattled us. Nevertheless, as I get older, I see more clearly the value of ritual in creating strong, positive memories. I see the love and care threaded through our failings, binding us and making us strong. Traditions, ritual, our breaking bread together was important.

I’m not alone in realizing that we should not discard good family traditions. This year Susan at A Slice of Life ignored a few family traditions she’d carefully observed in the past and soon discovered her error:

Our family, like many others, has holiday traditions that we faithfully adhere to year after year. In our family, we always put up the tree after the last birthday on the 12th. We always put up the tree in the same manner and always with eggnog and seasonal music. We always go to see The Nutcracker. We always make the same dishes for dinner and always share it with the same family. We always make cookies for Santa (and other friends), we always remember to put out carrots for the reindeer, we always get a “surprise” gift of…well, I think you get the picture.

This year, things have been, well…different. It has seemed more chaotic and less joyful. For various reasons, I just haven’t felt the Christmas Spirit this year. I’ve let things slide that didn’t really need to be done. To my relief, nobody really seemed to notice. My reasoning was that the girls are both teenagers now and all those little things really didn’t matter. That was until Christmas Eve. ... (A Slice of Life, “Don’t Mess With Tradition”)

It turns out somebody did notice, and you’ll have to read her well-written post to see how Susan learned her lesson. I didn't make a conscious decision to avoid tradition this year with my family's Christmas, but for unavoidable reasons we had no Christmas tree this year. Yes, I heard complaints, but there was nothing I could do to make things right.

While Susan's tale deals with Christmas traditions, I think you can apply its lessons to the New Year. This New Year's Day, I plan to go back to at least one very old tradition that my grandmother and mother kept and that’s serving black-eyed peas and cabbage on New Year's Day. If you’re unfamiliar with that tradition, you can learn more at Georgia on My Mind.

Around here we follow that old Southern saying for our traditional New Years Day Meal….

Eat poor that day, eat rich the rest of the year. Rice for riches and peas for peace.

Over the years my husband and I have tried to dress up our grandmothers ’recipes for Black-Eyed Peas, Corn Bread, and Collard Greens a bit because truthfully I never have liked the soupy kind of collard greens my mother fixed and plain old black-eyed peas were not very appetizing. (Georgia on My Mind)

She uses collards instead of cabbage, a delicious and reasonable substitute, and in her post she shares good recipes for the day's meal. Also, here at BlogHer, Kalyn Denny has much more to say about lucky foods for the new year.

If you're interested in more New year's traditions for families, take a look at this article, "New Year, new traditions".

Resolutions

Not only do I plan to return to holiday food traditions, but I will also return to a serious attempt to make and keep New Year’s resolutions. This time, however, I’ll make resolutions a family affair as discussed at CoolPeopleCare:

Make resolutions as a family and there will always be someone there for support.

I've made my share of personal resolutions, and usually either forgotten or broken them quite quickly. I always start with the best of intentions, but soon get caught up in something more urgent or important. But I wonder what would have happened, had I decided that we could have done New Year's Resolutions together as a family? Would the resolutions have more staying power and achieved more successful results? (CoolPeopleCare)

This is exactly what we need right now in my household, a way to better ourselves together. I think a joint resolution will make us more productive and an obvious choice is to resolve that we'll get fit in 2008, but I think we should also consider being better organized and managing money better.

Before you caution that we shouldn’t do too much at once, consider that I read an article (that I can’t find now) on Yahoo! yesterday in which some expert said despite conventional wisdom, people who tackle several life changes at once have a greater success rate than those who take on one change at a time. If anyone else saw that article, please point me to it.

I found a slew of meaningful and practical resolutions in another article at Tallahassee.com by Peter A. Gorski, “Even the best of parents might heed these resolutions”. These are the three I have under serious consideration:

  1. Make and keep your own friends and support systems.
  2. Ask for help — interdependence is healthier than independence.
  3. Value your parental love and guidance as the greatest contribution to our nation's security, prosperity and civility.

iVillage.com also offers a list, Five family resolutions.

I figure why shouldn’t I try resolutions this year with hopes that my family will grow spiritually, emotionally, and change in the best possible ways. What’s there to fear, failure?

Fear of failure is not a good reason to avoid change, but should we not follow through, I’ve already found a resource to help muffle my guilt that makes a good resolution itself: "Get rid of guilt in the new year" at RealSimple.com. No, I'm not cheating or preparing to fail. I'm preparing to live and breathe.

Graphic source: The New Parent blog

Nordette Adams is a Contributing Editor at BlogHer.com

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