Parenting

Finding comfort in family traditions

After an emotional weekend, Jennifer reconnects with her family with a simple Christmas tradition.

Gillian and Isaac with their gingerbread house masterpiece.

Friday, December 14, 2012 is a day I will never forget. From the first text message I got from my husband telling me that something horrible had happened at a small rural school in Connecticut to checking Twitter at midnight when my youngest child woke up from a bad dream, I obsessively followed the news. I stared at the photos of every single victim of the Sandy Hook shootings until my heart could ache no more. I got angry when Twitter seemed to return to it’s inane chatter about coupons, sports stats and reality TV (hats off to @buzzbishop for the #shitthatdoesntmatter hashtag).

While the physical warmth of my children and husband were comforting, I couldn’t help but think of the families who weren’t tucking their children in at night. Of course, having a son the same age as many of the victims deepened my sadness.

For our own reasons, we’ve chosen to not discuss the Sandy Hook shootings with our children. However, this means our children don’t understand why I was close to tears all weekend and opted out of much of the silliness involved in getting ready for Christmas and my son’s birthday. All day Sunday my son made me lovely cards and even a heart-shaped Lego creation to cheer me up. Finally, he pulled out the one thing sure to make me smile: the tradition of decorating our gingerbread house.

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Three years ago, while heavily pregnant with Gillian, I went shopping for the ingredients for a gingerbread house with Isaac, who was a few days shy of his third birthday. I pictured making a work of art that I could put on the front of our family Christmas cards for years to come. My son, on the other hand, chose the most ridiculous gummies and candies: sharks, army guys, hot lips, fangs and sour worms. I already knew that this wouldn’t be the gingerbread house that I had hoped for. Instead, it ended up being a hilarious family tradition.