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Grandparents need to respect new parents’ holiday traditions

I understand the importance of family tradition. But it wasn’t until I became a parent a few years ago that I felt possessive and protective over my new family unit. I wanted to do holidays my way and create new traditions and memories for my own family. Grandparents should not stand in the way of that.

It was my first Christmas with my first son, and he was almost a year old. I was beyond excited. I grew up in a stressful and lonely home. I couldn’t wait to make new memories with my son and turn a fresh page on the holiday fights that plagued my family in the past.

Maybe it’s because I was pregnant again that first Christmas, but I was surprised at how irritated I felt when other family members crossed my imaginary boundaries.

My ex-pastor, father-in-law wanted to give a long sermon from the Bible, as he had done with his family for the past 35 years. I used to find the tradition heartwarming and the sign of the true loving family I never had. That year, as a new parent, I found it annoying and overbearing. Didn’t he understand that we were new parents and wanted to create new traditions? What if we didn’t want to teach our kids the same religious beliefs? (We don’t.) 

After sitting and stewing and turning it over and over in my head, wondering why I was feeling like such a pregnant asshole on Christmas, I realized: This is my family now. Grandparents are still an important part of our extended family, but what my husband and I decide for our sons matters most of all.

After talking with my husband, he sent an email to his dad to clear the air. My kind father-in-law was ultimately receptive since he couldn’t have read my mind in the first place. In our new tradition, we now take turns reading the Bible and Santa stories, with much less emphasis on a 30-minute, Christmas morning sermon.

I assumed I wouldn’t care how we celebrated Christmas as new parents, but I did. I assumed other members of my family would read my mind and pick up on my cues, but of course, they didn’t.

Family tradition is a beautiful thing, but it’s fluid, and it changes with each new generation. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, family tradition means even more to me now. It’s for me and my kids, and I don’t want to share it. Until they have kids of their own.

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