Traditions can be something you look forward to, or simply endure. Holiday meals are often the latter, but the tradition I’m going to tell you about today is one that anyone can get behind and look forward to.
Years ago, over 20 now, I moved with my eldest child from California, where she had lived all of her eight years, to Missouri. It was a huge change – one that meant she didn’t see her dad regularly. A new school, new friends, new everything. I worried about her, a lot.
While I heaved a huge sigh of relief that he was no longer in my life, doing his best to sabotage the mother-daughter relationship, I knew that she couldn’t see his manipulations for what they were, mean-hearted and selfish and hurtful, she only knew that she missed him.
There are many ways in which you can help your kids through hard times. I made it a point to take her on dates where we would go to the movies and eat dinner at a restaurant, just the two of us. And I talked to her, asked her questions, and did what I could to help her through the challenges of 4th grade in a new school and both of us living with my mom.
The idea of creating an alter ego, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Why not create a magical creature who could make my girl smile, go on adventures, and feel super-special, all at once?
So I invented Iliana Llorena Elfling. And not just any elfling, but one that lived with her mother, her grumpy uncle and annoying cousin. Iliana’s world was very different from my daughter’s, and yet had striking similarities. She missed her dad, loved nature, and had a great sense of humor.
We corresponded on and off for around five years. My goal had been to connect with my child on a level that was different from our daily mother/daughter relationship. To that end, I think I succeeded. And while we didn’t delve very deeply into the more painful issues, the life and dad she had left behind, we did indulge in a very special world, where drums are made of snakeskin, elflings and fairies are real, and life has a little magic in it.
Those days are long gone. But around 3-4 years ago, Em discovered the journal that we had written in and asked if she too could have someone special like that. She knew it was me, just as her sister had, and yet she still wanted it.
I created Whip, Snap, and Per – a trio of fairies who were living in our new yard near downtown Kansas City. We didn’t correspond as much as my eldest and I had, but Em’s needs were not what her sister’s were. She has a whole family with dedicated, loving parents. And while she did get uprooted, moving from Belton to Kansas City at the age of 6 1/2 years, her life is very different from what her sister’s was.
And then we decided that we would have “just one more” – only with me being post-menopausal, that meant fostering and, hopefully, adoption. And for the past 15 months, we have shared our lives with a lovely, and challenging toddler. Now three-and-a-half years old, the age of creativity is upon us.
Last weekend, when it was raining and generally impossible to work outside on the front fence my husband and I have been building, I instead focused on our Art Room, a small room off of the dining room on our main level. I rearranged it, and created three different workstations, one for each of the girls and one for myself. And the girls have LOVED it. This also prompted Em to resurrect what is now, indubitably, a family tradition.
By creating Feather Drop, she has cemented fully the tradition of creativity, dreams, and magic into our family. This included finding a special box to put fairy treasures in, and organizing a scavenger hunt in the garden for her little sister.
Where will this family tradition lead us?
Hopefully to love. Whether it is at the beginning or the end, it is all that really matters.