Traditions are voluntary

Posted on 20.07.2011


slightly bitchy rant

I’m having a hard time dealing with/wrapping my head around something lately, and I feel like writing it out might help me to get some clarity.

My father mentioned something a while ago about ‘when I get married’ and ‘changing my last name’, and ‘it being tradition/al’.

This kind of killed me, because it said some things about my dad that I don’t want to think or believe. It actually made me kind of angry.

One, it says that he really does not know me at all. Because if he knew anything about me, or had listened to anything I’ve said since somewhere in my early teens, he’d know that I have absolutely NO intention of changing my last name, because mine is just too awesome to ditch. Further, if he’d listened to anything I’d said (repeatedly) in the past two years, he’d know that René is planning to take our last name when that actually happens, which it isn’t, anytime soon.

Two, it means that my father is living in some sort of false reality. Maybe it is HIS real reality, but it is not mine. I have no idea if it’s Steph’s or not, but I know that it isn’t mine.

A tradition is defined as: “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice”
“a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting”.

I’m wondering where, in my poor father’s memory, he EVER remembers drilling the idea of taking a man’s last name into my head. I certainly don’t remember that happening. In fact, a lot of the things that my father calls ‘traditions’ are not traditions, or traditional, to me. There are no things we were ever made to practice or reenact every so often, nothing considered ‘sacred’, nothing that happened every year save for taxes and Christmas.

Tradition, to me, was getting yelled at every year on the morning of my birthday. That happened every year since I was conscious enough to remember it, although it hasn’t happened since I moved out of my parents’ house. Is it something I will pass down to my own adopted children? No.

I can’t even picture the things that my father considers as ‘tradition’, because we’ve never had that talk and we’ve never done anything the same way each year. Tradition, to me, probably lasts longer than one generation. To be honest, since we were so far removed from our extended family growing up, I have no idea of what their traditions might be.

The only things that I can even imagine, even CONSIDER being traditions all happen around Christmas. And they generally concern what food is being served at whose house, or what cookies we make when. I think there’s fish involved on Xmas Eve, and I think there might be turkey involved on Xmas. But I wouldn’t know, and since I haven’t been around my extended family too often on those holidays, I can’t say what’s ‘tradition’ and what’s just ‘practice’. I know that when I go to my parents’ house now, if it’s a holiday, there will be emerald jelly and crab dip. And that they will say ‘god bless the cook, and jeff, and dribbles’.

There is only one new practice that I could call something like a tradition in my family. That is making Xmas cookies every year, in honor of mom. We would get together and make the cookies, and it would be nice. But we were making cookies even before mom died, even though we took a hiatus in the period between the separation and mom’s death. So it’s not so much a ‘tradition’ as it is a ‘dedication’ of something we were already doing, to someone or something. Kind of like how the Japanese Women’s Team dedicated their games to the victims of the Tsunami and earthquakes in Japan. They would have played with or without the tsunami and earthquakes. That’s how I see our ‘cookies tradition’.

We won’t be baking Xmas cookies for mom in my house, when I’m a mom. If I’m around my family, then I’ll go and take part, but I won’t be carrying that practice on, since René and I don’t actually celebrate Xmas. We celebrate our anniversary.

I imagine that tradition and practice could be one and the same. But I think that for me, growing up, whatever it was that we were doing at my house wasn’t called ‘tradition’, it was called ‘survival’, and that falls more into the category of ‘practice’ as far as I’m concerned.

As it stands right now, today, I follow no family traditions. I don’t do this out of choice, I do this because I am not aware of any. The idea of traditions, to me, just equals boring and extra rules to follow that mean nothing to anyone present. It means false expectations and senses of entitlement.

Maybe René and I will make ‘practices’ of our own. Like going to Japan once a year. But they wouldn’t be anything that I’d expect our adopted children to carry on once we’re gone. They can live their lives as they see fit, just as we are living ours.

I love my father, and I loved my mother even if we didn’t get along all the time. But as far as I am concerned, it was never my job to make either of them feel comfortable in some old-world view of life that is dissociative of the way things are today, or the way things have always been. Things have NEVER been that way to me. I won’t start pretending that they are now.

If you don’t teach me tradition, then don’t expect me to follow it. If I don’t know the rules, then don’t get upset when I break them.

We’re living in the 21st century. It’s no longer necessary for René to ask my father’s permission for anything. It’s not required that my parents tell me I’m allowed to move overseas, or have a job, or get married. So much in our lives is changing every day. I’d rather embrace the future and the possibilities than the way things (never) were.

I think we can apply that thought process to everything in our lives, not just personal or family traditions. There are certainly a lot of laws or ways the government does things that should just be re-thought, rather than followed blindly because they come from the ‘good old days’. There were never any ‘good old days’. Just old days.

My father can say every day that he’s happy I’m happy, but he’s always going to follow it with ‘but I hate that you’re so far away’. And he’s allowed to hate it, just like I’m allowed to not care that he hates it. I’m pretty certain that I am me, and this is my life, and that I should live it for myself and the ones that make me want to keep living. But when it comes to what makes ME happy, and what I want to do, I won’t be taking anyone else’s opinion into consideration. That may or may not be breaking tradition, but I don’t quite care.

Depending on the day, this action might be considered tradition, since my dad did something very similar when he moved our family from NY to MD, away from all of our extended family. And he even added in a ‘because I don’t want to be around all of your bullshit anymore’ when he did it, which I chose not to do, since that wasn’t the case. But you’d never get my dad to admit to that one, because it’s different now that he’s the one being left.

All traditions are voluntary. We’re not required in this life to do anything but die and pay taxes. And even the taxes are kind of voluntary, depending on how much trouble you can put up with from the government.

/slightly bitchy rant

Posted in: life