“I Don’t Want a New Tradition!”
Kid finally has everything she needs
On April 19th of last year, the sixteenth issue of The Daily Kina came out, with the top headline, “Toddler Demands Novelty”. Technically the second issue of The Sunday Kina, this issue was scribbled off in the minutes before tootling off in what Kina called “The Rice Car”, a white Ford Fusion that we rented during four early pandemic months—a doorway to new, safe, open spaces. This was, New Yorkers will recall, during the great playground outage of 2020, and we’d spent the prior weekend hiking around the abandoned grounds of the Cloisters; I remember looking out at the Palisades across the Hudson, my mask off, ignorant for just a moment of the grief at the bottom of the hill. Kina jumped from boulder to boulder, and we took a moment to be thankful for our own recovery. By the next weekend, Kina had come to believe that the various ramps and stoops around our house were provincial and trite, and so we drove her off to Greenwood Cemetery. There, as we peered into mausoleums and looked for walking sticks, we could hear sirens from all around the graveyard. We ate a little picnic and were quiet. We were lucky.
Throughout the last year, there were various moments in which Kina craved novelty. This publication ran an issue about how she wanted a new room early this February (which, in hindsight, was one of the first signs that her sleep was going sideways); in that night’s newsletter, I talked about how much I wished I could teach Kina how to find novelty in stillness. For a long time, I struggled to find new rituals for us as a family, and for Kina. Trips to weekend playgrounds and distant parks couldn’t make up for the distance of her friends and family, couldn’t give her four new walls. You can’t drive to the other side of this thing.
But the last couple of weeks have felt better, as Kina’s grandparents have gotten vaccinated, and the routines we’ve built—books at night, hugs after weekday naps, performances by Elsa, and the morning paper—have begun to feel comforting and familiar, things we might be sad to outgrow. I think today’s top headline recalls Kina’s response to my suggestion that we make a new tradition out of closing her door at night, rather than propping it open with the kitchen light on full blast. That old tradition, which had been in place for much of the year (since her last major sleep regression), feels good to her now—it’s all she really knows. I wonder if she realizes that all of this is passing, and the life she knows as normal will be replaced, in time, with some semblance of the normal life her parents thought they had before.
Kina got the novelty she wanted last year. We gave it everything we could, and we built a new tradition—one she’s now quite happy with. Now that we can see the way out, though, I find it strangely sad to step through the door. We just made this. What does it mean to move on? This moment is the confluence of two nostalgias—a wistfulness about the family we’ve become in the last year, as I look back, and a longing for the richness of our life before the pandemic, which still lies ahead. If I stop here, can I have both? The sadness, before it passes, feels tender. I’ll miss it.