Dear Soon-to-Be Parents, Choose your Family Traditions Wisely

A few nights ago, my husband was relaying conversations he had with a couple of his co-workers who were either expecting their first child or had recently had one. To the woman who was pregnant and stock-piling Pampers, he suggested cloth diapering the baby, but when he told her, “you know, you can even buy used cloth diapers” she was appalled.

“I’m not putting second-hand diapers on my child’s hoo-ha!”

He laughed.

To the co-worker who was frustrated when his wife, a nurse with a good salary, took a half-time position because she couldn’t bear to put their baby in daycare, he chuckled.

It’s true. First time parents sanitize the binkie each time it falls; for the second child, the binkie gets sucked clean in the parent’s own mouth before being deposited back in the baby’s, and if you are crazy enough to have even more children, well, you’re satisfied with any old thing they shove in their pie-hole so long as they quit screaming.

I jest…a little, but I am quite serious when I warn new parents: Choose your family traditions wisely.

Just last week I was sitting in a meeting at work when a colleague started passing around a giant bag of fun-sized treats. It turns out that the “Switch Witch” had come and traded out all her children’s Halloween candy for some non-edible toys.

The Switch Witch? I’d never heard of it and I immediately wondered if my children needed one. It would be handy to get all the Halloween candy out of the house, not because my four-year-old just got her first cavity filled, but rather I found myself snacking on it and with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, I didn’t need a head start on all those extra calories.

Still, what was so wrong with kids eating their Halloween candy? Wasn’t that one of the great joys of childhood? Halloween candy could teach one to barter, to trade, and to ration. Yes, my children pestered me for candy before they even had breakfast, but they had worked hard for that loot. And let’s be honest, the idea of spending money to replace the candy they had gotten for free didn’t sit right with me. Besides, I had a profound aversion to buying my children toys starting in September and lasting right up to Christmas. If dear old Saint Nick was arriving within three turns of the calendar, they could wait.

It was bad enough that I had to cough up more and more money each time a tooth was lost. The inflation on teeth is downright alarming! Back when I was a kid, I got a quarter. Did you see what Farrah Abraham’s daughter got?!? Now I’m no Back-door Teen Mom, but still. If the tooth fairy is leaving fivers for all my daughter’s friends, I have to at least leave a couple bucks.

While I successfully talked myself out of the Switch Witch, it was only a day or two later that my aunt posted this meme on Facebook.

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While I have enjoyed some of the Elf on the Shelf benefits, it is A LOT of pressure. You pretty much have two choices once you adopt the elf tradition: you can either have a slacker elf or a kick-ass elf, and if you choose not to slack, you can never go back. Sure, sure, you can get away with saying the elf didn’t move once or twice because the kids were naughty, but other than that, you’ve got to play the game.

And the game lasts for years.

I have a friend who makes a special calendar for what their elf is going to do each night of the month. For our elf, I try to maintain a healthy balance of “Look what Dot did!” and “He’s in the Christmas tree….again.” And the older your kids get, the harder it becomes. My oldest daughter started critiquing the creativity of our elf’s hiding spots last Christmas when she was only seven. She’s even started remembering what our elf did in previous years. Maybe it would be easier if I hadn’t had to delete my Pinterest board dedicated to elf ideas, but since my daughter started using my account to pin arts and crafts inspiration, I’ve been coming up a little short.

My friend, whose own daughter is in middle school, assures me that it will become fun again once they are older. She and her daughter hide their elf on each other now. One day his legs will be hanging out from the front door when she comes home from work and the next, she’ll tuck the elf in her daughter’s underwear drawer, but when I consider that I potentially have a decade of this nonsense, it starts to feel like a self-imposed prison sentence.

Between the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and Santa Claus, there’s enough to worry about. As parents, you’re destined to fall asleep once or twice without slipping George Washington under your child’s pillow. You may be forced to secretly call your mother while hiding in the bathroom listening to your daughter cry and beg her to phone the house pretending to be the tooth fairy explaining how she was slammed the night before and simply couldn’t make it to all the houses. The next time you forget, (because there will be a next time too) you will explain, matter-of-factly, that the bedroom was too messy for the fairy to make a safe entry and use your deception to your advantage. But the minute you start adding in other traditions, you’re stuck with them, and the disappointment that will come with your mistakes.

Think you can decorate their bedroom door with crepe paper and balloons for just a couple birthdays? Ha! Think again! Witness the discontent on your children’s faces that one year a leprechaun didn’t dye the toilet water and the milk green and you’ll understand the severity of these decisions.

Before procreation, couples should discuss more than just how they will handle diapers, daycare, and discipline, for the traditions you choose now will be harder to get rid of than an STD. A good rule of thumb is that in the number of your offspring and the traditions you choose– less is always more.

 

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