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December 14, 2010 / MrsH

Establishing Traditions and Older Child Adoption

Welcome to the December Carnival of Natural Parenting: Let’s Talk Traditions

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama.

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


This month’s Carnival of Natural Parenting’s theme is leaving me stumped.  The theme is “Let’s Talk Traditions: From holidays to birthdays, long weekends to family vacations, what has your family done to make special occasions memorable?”  Our family has worked hard at establishing traditions, but the reality is that we’ve had a few obstacles in doing it.  For my submission this month I thought I’d share the reasons that we’ve struggled, resources that have inspired me to continue plugging away at establishing traditions, and share our short list of traditions that are slowly taking root.

Our obstacles are mostly related to the fact that we are (still) in the process of adopting our older two, who are now 8.5 and almost 5.  They’ve lived with us for 2.5 years, long enough for us to have fallen into daily rhythms and routines, but too short for annual traditions to have taken hold.  MrH and I only had 4 Christmases together (total) before the children joined our family.  Just enough to begin navigating the territories of “how do we wish to celebrate together?”  and not enough time to think about how that might include children one day.  During that time, we also decided to stop traveling during Christmas, which meant no longer spending it with my family.  A huge change.  Once the kids joined our family, they added a whole new set of needs and history that needed to be taken into consideration.  Since the duration of their living arrangement was uncertain, our first Christmas we tried to make it child-friendly and also heavily included their birthmom.  As their second Christmas with us neared (and the first with our brand-new biological daughter), we realized we needed to be thinking about how to celebrate in the long-run.   Deciding what elements to keep, what to lose, what to adjust, and how to make it all happen was huge and still continues (after all, we only just started that last year, during the newborn-fog days!).   I still have a list of “traditions to be established.”  A vision of how I want holidays to look, and I expect that to continue to evolve for the next few years.  Though we did make a step by using an activities advent calendar this year.

In spite of all the factors making it more complicated for us to settle into solid family traditions, we have made strides.  We value traditions.  Our earliest discussions of what our family would look like included various traditions I’d want to have.  Unfortunately they’ve been hard to start with such a sudden growth in family size (we joke about having 3 kids in 3 months, except that it’s not a joke).  Several books have been helpful for ideas and inspiration:

So after all that, in what ways have we been successful at implementing holiday traditions in our family?  Last year and this year we went to an actual tree-farm to choose our Christmas tree, cut it down, and bring it home.  We take the kids to a Christmas Eve church service.  At the end, we all hold candles and sing Silent Night together.  At home, each family member has a stocking which Santa fills, in addition to presents under the tree.  We have a special breakfast on Christmas morning.

Like I said, we’re a work in progress, and I very much look forward to reading about what other people have to say about this topic!


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:



Leave a Comment
  1. Lori Ann / Dec 14 2010 7:40 am

    Found you via the carnival. I was attracted to your title because my family plans on adopting someday, but I’m scared about all it will take, especially with regards to these types of topics! I’m going to check out several of the links in this post — establishing routines and rhythms with older adopted kids is a question I’ve had, and I’m going to do an Advent activity round-up post soon so I thought I’d check out your activity post!

    • MrsH / Dec 14 2010 3:38 pm

      I won’t lie, it is hard, but then again, so is parenting our biological children! I’m not expert, but if you have any questions feel free to let me know, I’d be happy to share what has worked (or hasn’t yet!) for us.

  2. Seonaid / Dec 14 2010 10:54 am

    One thing I would say is that traditions have a way of building themselves. We have friends that always tell us to be careful not to do something three times unless we want to have to keep doing it forever. The kids know that there will be gingerbread houses, because there were gingerbread houses last year… and the year before that. But I didn’t start making gingerbread to develop a tradition. I just wanted to make a gingerbread house once. The tradition grew up organically.

    In fact, I’m being called to that task Right This Minute, so that’s about all I have to say right now. 🙂

    • MrsH / Dec 14 2010 3:41 pm

      I’m so intimidated about gingerbread houses! That’s great you’re willing and able to do it with your kids. And thanks for the reminder about traditions growing organically. I just LOVE having them so it’s been hard to feel like we don’t have many! I guess that in a few years we’ll have a longer list, even if I don’t actually do much to make that happen. Thanks!

  3. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama / Dec 14 2010 3:11 pm

    What a fabulous reason to be a little lost about how to add traditions 🙂
    My one question is – have you asked the little ones what kind of traditions they’d like to have? Maybe you could first come up with a few possibilities to share with them, then have a brainstorming session to see what they can think of (and maybe how you can all modify the ideas you thought about initially). I imagine that coming together as a family to decide on family traditions might be a great way to mesh everyone together.
    Good luck!!

    • MrsH / Dec 14 2010 3:44 pm

      You’re totally right! We only really did that the first year, and only with the older one b/c the younger one wasn’t verbal yet. Great idea, thanks!

  4. Lauren @ Hobo Mama / Dec 14 2010 6:53 pm

    That’s such an interesting angle to have. I can see where it would be a challenge to establish traditions with older children. I will say, though, that I found it a challenge even without children and now with just one. I suppose we just muddle through and take the steps forward as we can. I would imagine with your older kids, they will probably want input on what traditions to start and keep, which must be nice. I love that you’ve listed books to reference; I’ll have to check those out!

    • MrsH / Dec 17 2010 3:11 pm

      In reading other submissions though I’m realizing that, as you said, it’s a challenge for lots of people, regardless of how their families were formed. Hope you find something in the books helpful, I’m a total book junkie, the librarians recognize me as the lady who takes out way too many books at a time (and purchases a new library card every two times I go… but that’s another story!). Thanks for stopping by!

  5. boheime / Dec 14 2010 7:37 pm

    Simplicity Parenting is on my list to read. I’m glad to hear how much you like it.

    We have four bilogical children, the oldest of whom is 8 years old. We are still developing our traditions. It is fun, though.

    • MrsH / Dec 14 2010 9:36 pm

      I do really love it! I guess we’re all constantly developing traditions, aren’t we? It can be quite daunting, but really fun and exciting, too!

  6. Acacia @ Be Present / Dec 14 2010 11:58 pm

    I really appreciate your perspective and your seemingly relaxed approach about developing your traditions, even if you don’t have a choice about the wait. I get really excited about establishing new traditions with my growing family but have to keep perspective that the traditions that develop more on their own are more meaningful than ones I might try to force.

    • MrsH / Dec 15 2010 7:57 am

      Oh true confessions: I’m not relaxed about it! I wish we had more, I’m always trying to think of more, but then the reality of life with three kids hits and so we (I) realize I’m not supermom and need to just take it easy. It really is the ones that develop on their own that tend to stick, and offer the least amount of stress, isn’t it? At least, as long as I’m present enough to roll with it and let it happen!

  7. Michelle @ The Parent Vortex / Dec 15 2010 1:33 am

    I totally feel like we’re still building our traditions, and sometimes I get frustrated because I want it all to be settled and comfortable and familiar RIGHT NOW! But it’s not. And it’s good to be reminded that our traditions will grow organically as our family grows.

    My 4yo has been asking to build a gingerbread house, and I’ve been kind of putting it off because I’ve never done one before. But tomorrow we’ll do it! And probably next year, and the year after that… 🙂

    • MrsH / Dec 15 2010 7:58 am

      happy building! I haven’t done one yet either, for the same reason. Hope all goes well!


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