When Traditions Stop Being Fun

When Traditions Stop Being Fun - Milk and Sugar Blog

Last year I thought that if my son didn’t get a picture with Santa every year from birth, I was a bad mom.

Because of that belief, I dragged my toddler son to a store way too late in the season, only to discover a line with an estimated wait time of an hour and a half. I looked down at my toddler, weaving between merchandise displays, getting perilously close to breaking something, and thought: NOPE.

He wailed and buckled as I tried to lift him and carry him out of the store. As I wrestled to strap him into his car seat an overwhelming feeling of failure fell over me.

There would be no other opportunities to try again. No pictures with Santa this year. Our tradition was already broken.

I confessed my feelings of failure to my friends on Facebook and was amazed at the amount of reassurance I got. Friends I highly respect confessed they’d never done pictures with Santa. Of course I would never consider them lesser parents because of it, so why was I being so hard on myself?

This year I had to face the perfectionist mentality again, but for a different “tradition.”

Last year we had a blast going to a tree farm and picking out our tree with some dear friends. The kids loved running among the trees, seeing the machines that shook dead needles off the tree and watching trees be baled for transport. We got adorable pictures of ourselves and our little ones with a backdrop of evergreens. It felt like a beautiful holiday tradition and I had a fantasy that we would continue it every year.

Then this year rolled around. I’m pregnant and I’ve been sick a lot and cold most of the time. Our friends got a tree from a lot. The weather has been unusually cold and rainy.

So we went to Home Depot and bought a tree.

It wasn’t picturesque or romantic. But did we get a beautiful tree? YES. Did my son have a great time? YES.

My son still marveled at all the trees to choose from, and when we were examining a prospect to see if it was just right, he put his little hand on it and declared, “This is our Christmas tree.”  As it was trimmed, an employee gave us hot chocolate and my son slurped it down while marveling an inflatable dinosaur ridden by inflatable elves. While we waited for the tree to be baled, we stepped inside to get warm and he admired at all the sparkly decorations and the pre-lit fake trees.

He had a great time and there was overall no stress involved. Isn’t what’s most important about holiday traditions that everyone actually enjoys them? (Tweet this.)

This year I’m rethinking my expectations for traditions.

I listen to this amazing podcast called the Mom Hour and their most recent episode was about how to “maximize magic and minimize stress” during the holidays. It’s a down-to-earth conversation between two experienced moms and it helped me breathe a sigh of relief. They made one point in particular that stood out to me: you don’t often know something is a tradition until after the fact.

I wasn’t allowing room for the magic of Christmas because I was trying to meticulously plan it instead of letting it happen organically.

So this year I’m focusing on my attitude and being open to the experiences of the season. I’m leaving room for the unexpected to happen. Who knows? Maybe something I never could have planned on will become one of my son’s favorite Christmas memories. All I need to do is be present.

I’m wishing you a magical Christmas season, moms. Let’s all enjoy our children and focus on the fun.

Peace and love,



  • Julie

    Beautifully written. Each year will be different. Don’t let “tradition” steal your joy, but rather let your joy in the moment, create a memory that just maybe can be revisited in the future. Never miss the spontaneous “good stuff” in the present, by trying to recreate the past. Blessing to you for many spontaneous heartwarming moments this holiday season.

  • Sarah

    Wow, thank you so much, Amber! We’re so honored for the shout-out to The Mom Hour, and your lovely words on traditions are so spot-on. xo

  • Amy

    I decided to have our tradition be “creating peaceful memories”.

  • Dana

    Wow, I really loved this Amber!

    Maybe even shed a few tears…

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