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Traditions of trees and seasons

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The Toronto Library has twenty-four copies of Positive Discipline, the first three years by Nelson, Erwin and Duffy. All of the copies are out there on the bedside tables of parents and parents-to-be across the city, and three more are waiting on the hold list. Make that four. I’m amazed there are so many people in this city who (a) use the library and (b) are as nerdy, conscientious and / or lacking in confidence as I am to warrant such a stampede of enthusiasm over such a book.

Evidently, gone are the days of just doing what we have know, generation after generation.

Actually, the introduction to the book (I could access a preview only) explains that we’re in a child rearing black hole largely because we abandoned long held traditions in parenting somewhere between WWII ending and the 20th century wave of immigration and the proliferation of the extended, multi-generational family unit into the much more independent two-parents-and-their-kids-doing-their-it-their way model.

The author also explains why before this seismic shift in the family structure, children understood respect for authority in part because they had one parent modeling authority (Dad) and another modeling respect for authority (Mum). Luckily, the author doesn’t suggest we should move backwards from equality of the sexes, but rather, is making an interesting point.

Outside the front window of the new house there is a Japanese maple. One day this week, after a month of gradually brightening its leaves into what can only be described as flaming crimson, the big fall happened. Essentially overnight, all the leaves were on the lawn, or rather, square of dirt, where they now lie in wait for a useful attitude and a rake to step in.

This tree, it gave the world its most intense beauty right before everything came apart. And come Spring, it will be back again. Its traditions are deeply, scientifically, intact.

Meanwhile, a friend emailed me his cover letter for comments. Why does it bring me so much joy to articulate the unique gifts a person brings to a potential job? Because I’m a career coach and a writer. And because I want the best for my friend.

Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, the make believe graveyards and pumpkins that came in packs of four and five are giving way to tentative suggestions of Christmas – a wreath, a red flood light on the front door. Soon Santa’s sleigh and reindeer will be inflated and installed on roofs, and strings of lights will appear on the eaves and we’ll all rush home in the dark after work to bake and watch Elf and Love Actually. You know, the classics.

After that there will be a long period of cold. Crunchy snow underfoot and flushed cheeks and long work days. We’ll make soup and wear cozy slippers and tuck into bed early. And on some weekend in February I will purchase a crib and a car seat as regulated, and clear away the clutter that has gathered in The Second Bedroom and it will become The Baby’s Room.

And then, in March, there will be a baby. And we’ll step into our new job – which is to nurture and support this little person in finding his or her way in the world.

Loving and nurturing and coaching and evolving. Strong traditions in parenting and humanity, generation after generation. Just re-imagined now and then.

Hence why we read the parenting books. And attempt to honour traditions where we can, incorporating healthy feminism and other modern phenomena where appropriate. And participate in seasonal lawn display like ghosts in hedges and Disney themed jack-o-lanterns. And carefully, thoughtfully, review each others’ cover letters in hopes of contributing to each others’ successes.

And why we, eventually, rake up the carnage of fall – all those breathtaking flaming crimson leaves – and bundle them up and send them away.

Such is the importance of human traditions.

Thank you, trees and seasons.

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