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Our Story Begins: Bah Humbug!
Screwing With Tradition

Okay, I finally went and did it.

I messed with one of the many hundreds of “traditions” that were established in our household.  You see, as I write this, we’re a day past “St. Nicholas Day” or the “Feast of Saint Nick” or whatever you call it.  I, personally, for the last 18-odd years, had another name for it.  I have called it, “The night Dad has to run to the freaking grocery store and buy crap that hops up my kids with sugar and keeps me up all night . . . and it’s not even Christmas yet” day. This frustrated tirade relates to a “tradition”  my wife and her mother had followed, but my family did not.

What began was the fact that, the night of December 5th into the morning of the 6th, the kids got to see if they were “good enough” for Santa by putting out their shoes for St. Nick to fill.  If you got coal, you’re obviously not good enough and you have 19 days to do better.  If you were, you got oranges, candy and chocolates described as gold coins.

Now I had some real issues with this. Part of it was the fact that my lovely and talented wife, Andrea, loved to have “traditions.”  Lots . . . and lots . . . of traditions.  Let’s talk for a minute, too, about placing edible treats in something that has housed my children’s feet.  You know where my kids’ feet have been, right?!  I mean, my kids wear out shoes so much that I buy enough the shoemaker has to steal elves from the Keebler tree.

But each year, at the pleading, twinkling eyes of my wife, I would be reminded, on December 5th, that it was “Saint Nicholas Day!”  That look, that sparkling smile of hers, always got me to do anything she wanted.  So grumbling, I’d be driving at 9pm to the one grocery store that was open in the hopes of finding stuff that’s normally reserved for fireplace stockings, not bacteria-filled footwear.

But this year… we missed it.

“Can we put our shoes out?” was Noah’s question.  Then Samuel, and Hannah, chimed in as well.  I should feel bad we missed it, but I took a perverse, grumpy, paternal happiness in telling them “We missed it, guys.  We would have had to put the shoes out last night!  Sorry!”

Yes, I get it, I could have – maybe should have – kept the tradition up.  Each day that passes, a little wisp of memory from our lives with Andrea drifts away.  But I was determined, from the first blush, to make sure that our lives were literally our lives, not a lifetime dominated by what we’re missing.  So I gently told my kids that we missed St. Nick day, and I didn’t celebrate it as a kid, either.

It was then I realized all they really wanted was the treats, anyway, not the tradition.  It’s hard to feel bad about missing something that even they weren’t missing.  So I gave up a tradition, but it’s only because we’ve gained so many more.  We visit grandparents every summer.  We travel.  We have Christmas and New Year’s, all of it.  And it I can leave behind the fungus-coated sneaker chocolate so much the better.

What do you think?  Was I wrong?  Are you celebrating tradition or buried under it?  Are you looking back, or stuck in the past?  Before you push and live in tradition, maybe try looking at it from all angles like I did.

More From GEM:

Thanksgiving Good Enough Mother Style: What’s Your Favorite Tradition? (POLL)

10 From GEM: Easy, Inexpensive Forced Family Fun!

My Solution To Father-Son Conflict? Work It Out… ALONE!

Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California.  A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins, is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.