When my kids were younger, we had holiday illnesses and sugar overloads and pure exhaustion, but now that they are teenagers, some of the holiday blues can creep into their celebrations. As responsibility and empathy and social concerns and all sorts of other life-expanding emotions, character strengths and thought processes are churning within my teens, so to is added awareness and internal conflicts during the holidays. This year, for the first time, I’ve noticed a little of the blues set in for a couple of my kids.
We coped this year by letting go of some of the traditions my kids have outgrown and getting back to basics. At least in my house, we made a real conscious effort to take the emphasis off gifts and onto spending time together, visiting, telling stories and doing things together. We actually attempted a game of Scrabble–all four of us–and managed to all pitch in on cooking our Christmas Eve dinner. Still, it wasn’t easy. I recognize that my kids are in transition–having outgrown their childhood rituals, but not yet independent adults. They’re not yet sure who they want to be or what their lives will look like, but they know the old way of being and the old ways of thinking no longer fit. And, Christmas is part of that transition.
It’s helped to talk about it. We’ve all done a lot of talking–as a family group and one on one. These past few days have been a bit like a play–with various conversations going on in various rooms with shifting dynamics of individuals. We’ve talked about holidays past and present, how things are different at different houses and with various versions of family, what we like and what we don’t. I’ve done a great deal of listening and facilitating and coaching (which can make for a rather exhausting holiday!). But, I know this is another one of those parenting moments. Ritual, tradition and holidays are such a large part of life, it stands to reason that as my kids are working so hard to transition from childhood and dependency to adulthood and self-sufficiency, some of that work would be mixed up in the holidays too.
So, I tell them a bit of sadness at letting go of things and at looking at the holidays with new eyes and expanding minds is to be expected. We should expect some growing pains–even with the holidays. Yes, indeed, things are changing–but like other facets of life–we only need take it one minute, one day, one holiday at a time.