What the New Baby Brings to the Christmas Family Gathering
Christmas 2013 was special. My daughter, my son, their dad and I spent the week together for the first time in almost 20 years.
- The venue: home of my son and daughter-in-law.
- The reason: my precious grandson.
We all wanted to share Christmas with the new baby in the family.
On the surface, it looked like simply a week of fun, but on reflection it revealed much more about the impact of the baby on family life and also about what Christmas means to us individually and collectively.
We are hoping for more babies, so for us and for others who are welcoming new babies into their families, we reflect on the joy of the family gathering with a new baby at Christmas.
(1) The New Baby Creates a New Family Nucleus
When my children were growing up, our home was the venue for the Christmas gathering of the extended family. The group consisted mainly of the dad’s relatives, for being an only child I had no siblings, nieces and nephews to invite. By the time our marriage ended, my children had become accustomed to the big family gathering, so they continued to spend Christmas with their dad and his crowd of relatives.
The arrival of my grandson in 2013 established a new family nucleus. Neither my son nor daughter complained about missing their aunts, uncles and cousins at Christmas. Nor did I hear my daughter-in-law complain about missing her extended family. The baby initiated a new era and created a new family nucleus.
Because of him, our world has changed without a single bit of resistance from any of us.
(2) He Affirms Our Sense of Family
Our baby is male, but these facts are as true for the female. The response of family members to the baby reveals our belief in and our loyalty to the family values we adopt.
- Why did it not matter for my children that the family gathering was so much smaller than usual?
- What other Christmas programs at work, at church or with friends did we all pass up during Christmas week?
- Why did my children's dad and I want to share the same space for Christmas, although we have not exchanged Christmas greetings for several years?
This was our opportunity to tell the new baby that family is a priority; that he can count on his closest relatives to be present when it matters; that we welcome him and thank him for the opportunity to emphasize our commitment to family.
I can assure you that this is not the last time we will show up together to celebrate with this new child.
(3) He Brings Out the Best In Us
But Why Are They So Cute?
"Being cute is a baby's most powerful means of survival. When we look at those big eyes, tiny lips and noses, even their large foreheads . . . the center of our brains light up and our hearts melt."
Secret Life of Babies, BBC Documentary, Directed by Barny Revill
Older Now And He's Still Cute
We brought presents for our baby and for each other. We posed together with him for photographs. We smiled together as we watched his reaction to the Christmas lights. We applauded together the movements and sounds he made.
The love, the joy and the peace of Christmas was very real. Such was the impact of the new baby on our show of affection for him and for each other.
We were just as happy at the special dinner with the mother and extended family members of my daughter-in-law. We appreciated each other for a family love initiated by our love for the baby.
On one of our shopping sprees, I pushed the baby in the stroller back to the car. The granddad came round to fold the contraption and put it in the back of the vehicle, but he was having a problem. I stayed with him and laughed about how much more complicated these new devices were than the ones we had back in the day. My daughter saw us laughing and joked, “Look at them, they’re having flashbacks.”
I have to admit that I do not mind remembering the incident. Even now, when my grandson reminds me of my days with my babies, they are always happy memories.
(4) He Makes Us Keep Up with Media Gadgets
Parents are expected to keep up with the last models of toys and gadgets, but do other relatives have to? When I saw the type of gifts my grandson received at Christmas, I knew that I was way behind the times. What happened to the toys we could dump in a bucket of water to wash them?
All his toys had batteries. Many of them had computer screens, flashing lights and talking voices. One of them had the old house phone attached, and he had no idea what to do with the receiver. Equally surprising was that applying his index finger on these gadgets seemed as normal as drinking from his bottle.
In my article Promises to my Unborn Grandson, I wrote “Hopefully, I’ll keep up with you on your electronic gadgets, at least until you’re five.” Now that he is born, I realize that I was even behind in my thinking. I'm sure that I am not the only relative trying to keep up with the latest media gadgets because of the desire to communicate with these modern babies.
(5) He Validates What Christmas Means to Us
- Tips and Traditions for Baby's First Christmas | Parenting
How to make your baby's first holiday season special, from starting family traditions to capturing cute moments.
How about Your Family?
Will there be a new baby at your Christmas gathering this year?
Having a new baby with us at Christmas makes us think about what we need him to know about the season. What we need him to know is what we ourselves believe. There were some basic traditions that we agreed upon:
- The Christmas family gathering (as complete as possible) every year;
- The reading of the Christmas story (Matthew 1: 18-25) on Christmas Day;
- No Santa Claus.
- The sharing of Christmas joy with those present and absent.
There we were in the family gathering on Christmas Day, setting the precedent. My son, the new dad, read the Christmas story featuring Jesus as the reason for the season. We communicated with members of the old family gathering by Skype. We had a Christmas celebration we will be happy to talk about when my grandson can understand.
God knows that after so many years of celebrating Christmas the same way, and in some cases with the same people, we would appreciate a new feature now and then. He sends babies to help us renew our faith, our love and our joy, as we repeat to them the story of the first Christmas.
© 2014 Dora Isaac Weithers