I remember Christmas being a time of joy and anticipation, a time for tradition, a time for sharing with family.
Two years ago, we got custody of Mary Ellen one week before Christmas. Her parents retained parental rights and were allowed supervised visitation. They spent the night at our house Christmas Eve, and we did the best we could to make the celebration the next morning child-centered.
By last Christmas, her parents had unsupervised visitation, and we hoped they could regain custody within the year. Although we have the right to have Mary Ellen on Christmas day, we thought her parents should start their own tradition. Santa Claus came to their house. We were not invited.
This year we are establishing our own tradition knowing it may be for one year or forever. Last week Mary Ellen wrote a letter to Santa Claus, and over the Thanksgiving weekend, she, Papa, and I decorated the tree. I must say that a Charlie Brown tree with one decoration on it and a blanket around the trunk appealed to me. Lugging the boxes down from the attic has become more difficult with each year. But seeing Mary Ellen’s pleasure at helping to decorate made it worthwhile. In the next day or two, we will string cranberries.
Elf-on-the-Shelf arrived yesterday morning. (For those of you vacationing on Mars the last few years, the elf is magic. She observes the child’s behavior during the day and is whisked to the North Pole to report while the child sleeps. The elf then reappears at a different spot the next morning. The rules are that the elf is not allowed to talk and the child is not allowed to touch her. Got it?) Mary Ellen named her elf Sheila. I read Sheila the letter to Santa because Mary Ellen was a bit too much in awe to read it herself.
Christmas Eve, Mary Ellen will make glitter reindeer food with her mother and then return to us. Christmas morning, we will find that Santa visited our house and that his reindeer ate their snack. Her parents will be invited to join us.
I wish Mary Ellen could experience the stability of the same type of tradition I had. But life is full of adjustments, and I need to remind myself that this adjustment is mine. Mary Ellen doesn’t know the difference. I need to keep focused on what’s really important–that she feel loved and valued and that the sparkle in her eyes lets us know she’s happy. Of course that’s what is important all year.