I am the sort of mother who reads parenting books like novels. At every stage I researched and read everything I could to make myself the best mother possible. I left nothing to chance, and I followed most of the advise of the day to the letter. Our home had strict schedules, and for many years we sat down to dinner, all four of us, at six thirty p.m. sharp, there were extensive bedtime rituals, and holiday traditions that did not waiver. I put my children, their happiness and well being first in every situation, including creating and nurturing a stable and happy marriage.
For the past dozen years I’ve had two Christmas trees, one in each symmetrical Bay window facing the street of our home. My predacessor was the original owner of this beautiful traditional house and for thirty years she had a tree in each window. When I moved here my neighbors, who had grown up in my town, and then moved back to raise their own families, would repeatedly mention to me that I needed a second tree as the house always had two Christmas trees. One in each window. My second year in the house I acquiesced, and from then on, the family room window had the tree with colorful lights and the Kid decorations including the school craft ornaments, and the living room had white lights and the more formal glass and keepsake ornaments.
Today, the rooms are dark. There are no trees at all. It’s December 20th and there is not one Christmas ball to be found. The house sitter comes and goes and the alarm is set. I’m in Truckee with the Tahoe tree which is decorated with a collection of snowmen. But it has been moved. It’s no longer in the living room, but in the dining room. My younger daughter insisted on this, and honestly it makes me anxious to not see it in the same place it’s always been.
Of all of the parenting advise I learned reading so much through the years, the most important and useful was to teach the children to tolerate anxiety. I did this on many occasions, but mostly by signing them up for classes and camps where they had no friends. I know this sounds cruel, but because of it they have friends from all over the Bay Area, many from the UC Berkeley Gifted Science Camp where they took physics and human anatomy in grade school. Due to this and many other factors, I have created fantastically independent girls who are quite fearless in most, and especially new, situations.
I am starting to realize, that I am the one who craves the traditions and clings to the outmoded ideals of the past.
So now, I am learning from my own confident and modern daughters, how to step into the future without anxiety and fear.
At the end of the day, the trees in the windows are not as important as we think.
The unexpected is the new normal. I am loosening my grip on the past and am ready to move into the magical unknown of the future. But for right now, I am enjoying just the present. The snow in the trees, the bright winter blue sky, and my dog at my feet by the fire.