Normally the holiday season is a time in which many of us reflect on the year that's just passed and prepare for the year to come. For others reflection this time of year is limited to noticing Christmas decorations out of the corner of their eyes as they look in the mirror.
I wish I could say I had something deep or profound to offer, that maybe I'd solved or at least gained enough of a unique perspective on one or more of the many problems plaguing the world, or at least my country, to have done something substantial to contribute to the forward growth and evolution of humanity.
Heck, I'd settle for having written and published a short story... perhaps even the Great American Short Story (I know I don't yet have the discipline to have written a novel, let alone the Great American Novel-- baby steps!). But no, not yet.
Admittedly, the past year has been far more about parenthood than penmanship or writing. With just over 18 months under my belt I'm still rather new to this fatherhood gig and with my daughter at the age she is and changing as fast as she is and being as resistant to change as I can be at times... it has been a challenge. At the rate she's growing and developing, just as I start to figure things out I have to start figuring things out all over again. Intially I had to learn to step in and help out more and now it's more a matter of stepping back and letting her figure things out for herself more and as she further develops letting her learn from her own mistakes more and more. This isn't a case of "woe is me" I know this tale of parenting is an old one and there are other fathers facing greater challenges than I. I welcome the challenges and look forward to continuing to see things for the first time all over again through my daughter's eyes. On a somewhat corollary note, I have noticed that those overly sentimental father-daughter songs are having an exponentially increasing emotional effect on me.
Another change that has taken place over the past eighteen months is a shift of priorities from what is important to my wife & I as individuals and as a couple to what is important to us as a family unit and how those shifting priorities have started to dictate our actions more. One of the things that both my wife & I have mentioned is an apprehension that as she grows up our daughter will see us merely as her parents. We want her to have a sense of who we were and are as individuals as well as her parents. We want her to understand that while that is part of who we are-- it's not all of who we are. I think in better understanding the full scope of who her parents are, Samantha, will be better equipped to figure out who she is as she grows older.
As a bit of a genealogy and history buff, I believe part of who you are is on some level the sum experiences of your ancestors. We learn from their mistakes and their traditions help give us a sense of who we are and a sense that we're part of something much bigger. Since my wife & father-in-law are British and my mother-in-law is Kiwi my wife & I have discussed celebrating some British and possibly some Kiwi holidays with Sami to better understand and appreciate her background. For example I suggested we make a tradition of celebrating St. George's Day and possibly the Queen's Birthday starting with the upcoming year. Living in America, she'll automatically already gain exposure to the American holidays so we don't really have to go out of our way to celebrate those. And she has already started to get a semblance of her British heritage as we celebrate Christmas with my in-laws who incorporate their English traditions with their adopted American ones. Christmas crackers, plum pudding with brandy sauce, mince pies (something I was lukewarm about initially, but I've grown to love more each successive year that my wife has made them).
We've also started some traditions our own for the holiday season that may or may not be unique but are certainly special to us. On Christmas Eve, we're joined by our daughter's godfather for dinner. He lives close by and has become quite an active participant in her life. And at some point over the following week I make "sausage bread" something I picked up from one of my sisters. Admittedly hers is far better than mine as she does it from scratch whereas I get by with a little help from the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Maybe I should take my parenting cues from him too.