Children create traditions out of anything. If you serve them ice cream on Friday once, it becomes Ice Cream Friday. If you hug them before you send them to bed, they moan “Where’s the hug?” the next night. What if you go to the beach on the Fourth of July?
Or if you buy them a candy bar while grocery shopping? These events or items quickly become the special treat or memory they are entitled to, until you can argue successfully that it’s only on certain days or times or paydays. Relatives can drop by and the movie plans are scrapped, a tire blows and the money for Pizza Night gets sucked into car repairs, etc. Children do not like inconsistency, so it’s a tough battle sometimes to get them understand that “things happen”.
Occasionally, though, it’s also true that adults fall into a rut of maturity that begs “things happen… so give in, just ‘go with the flow’”. This resolution is an adult rite because we tacitly agree that we have no control anyway. It makes us adults a little pathetic and useless in the imagination department. Yet, recently, my son reminded me recently that there’s a yin to that yang.
My son woke up late on a Saturday when I was organizing a speech tournament for our school. He felt bad about that, so he guiltily helped me at the tournament. This emotion, I think, was the seed of despair which exploded later in the day.
That day he was supposed to go to the street fair with his dad after helping me (exciting) but then my husband decided that two kids AND working the event was too much (I have to agree) but ... Alex had planned on going, brought his money, and had envisioned a day of lemonade, hamburgers and buying some cool toy.
In fact, in his romantic mind, he "always has gone to the street fair, every year, and had a YMCA hamburger" (Tradition rises its head!). I don’t know if that’s actually true. It would be more accurate to say we “frequently” have gone to the street fair and “usually” get a hamburger from the YMCA. But Logic was never best friends with Emotion.
After hearing that news, he was sorely disappointed to be left with me (not with ME, but someplace other than the street fair and his dad). I floundered, trying to make it work with promises of "the speech tournament is ending at three", etc – the implication being that “we’ll go afterwards”. (Bad move, Mom).
"Did you know Mom? The YMCA is famous for their burgers?" he sighed.
As the day moved into the danger zone of three p.m. and the speakers were still speaking, I suggested he call his dad and see if he could be picked up (second bad move, Mom). My husband said no. Doh! Of course! He's working and he's trying to keep an eye on our high-energy daughter! Worse, my husband said very bluntly to Alex on the phone, "the fair is over". Alex became further distraught, shaking his head and kicking the ground, while he held my phone.
Then... THEN... he dropped my phone. When I swooped to grab it from the cement we were standing on, the shattered face of the phone reflected our shock into multiple directions.
My son then became OVERWROUGHT with anguish. His wail was akin to a trapped animal. I could see in his eyes, that he basically saw his day "fall apart".
Honestly, I actually don't think HE dropped my phone. I don't care about my phone, I wasn't angry, in fact, maybe, truthfully, it was my grabbing the phone, who really knows? It was all a blur.
My mom-hyper-drive kicked in. “Let’s go!” I said. I sped with him to the van, which was over a block away at a high school parking lot. The entire time we were striding vigorously toward the waiting vehicle, I kept muttering to him, “We have to try! We have to try!” as if I was creating a spell against the looming cloud of despair which hung over his head. He sighed back in a low breath, “It’s no use. It’s too late.” He didn’t understand at all why were walking so fast, when the street fair was “already over”. Once in the van, we barreled (safely) to the street fair location. "People are leaving!" He said as he pressed his face against the window "It's no use, mom!" Ignoring his fatalistic attitude, I parked at McDonald's, grabbed his hand and we skedaddled down the block to the street fair... to discover... we still had half an hour!
We hightailed it through the booths and I pointed out all the kid-friendly ones and made fun of Alex by pointing out the dresses and make up and jewelry he could buy... when WOW. He saw it. The magic moment. A rubber band gun. No, way. Yes, way. He bought that gloriously expensive toy with the money which was melting his pocket. We bolted to the YMCA booth for a burger. It was closed but God was looking out for Alex. My YMCA volunteer husband said, we have extra burgers, we have to take them home, okay? Woo pee!
We didn’t get any lemonade. Yet Alex had his burger, his toy and he saw the street fair. It was a good enough ending for him. In the long run, it wasn't the street fair nor the burger. It was keeping up with his idea of a personal tradition.
It was a nice feeling when he said, "Thanks for not giving up, Mom."
"I never thought it wasn't going to happen."
Can you feel my pain at Christmas time and birthdays?
I enjoy creating the memories but the stress of maintaining traditions can really put some wear and tear on a parent.
I thank God for when things work out in the end. He is actually the only one who really is in control and knows what’s going on anyway.
“Hey,God. Thanks for not giving up on us.”
“I never thought it wasn’t going to happen.”