I shared my story about St. Nick and the Batman socks. I told you I would give the Batman socks to our granddaughter when she went to kindergarten.
Well, as you can see in the picture above, Isabella picked the Batman socks right off our tree, made a face…and a new family tradition began.
As we learn in early childhood and special education, we take our cues from our children, right? Use those “teachable moments.”
New St. Nick Traditions
I don’t know if Tommy and his family will decide to put Isabella’s worn socks on their Christmas tree, but I’ve been trying to figure out how to continue our St. Nick’s tradition of fun plus lessons in diversity, inclusion and building community.
I’m not sure it will work, because two year olds are pretty young to understand sharing, but I’m thinking of giving Isabella two sets of Disney Princess socks for St. Nick’s.
One for her, and one to share.
I don’t want this to be a “charity” or “pity” model, but rather a gift of joy. I have read research which says giving is the best present you can give yourself.
Charity is tricky. I want Isabella to learn that she is giving a gift. It is something she would like, it is pretty and new (or gently worn), she can try to envision what the new little girl will feel like when she gets it.
If all goes well, this can be our new tradition.
Who doesn’t need a new pair of socks?
And even though the Disney Princesses are all young and beautiful, they are from different cultures and had to overcome some diversity, right?
Hopefully, the story of “St. Nick and the Batman Socks” will become a cherished tradition…and will continue to teach about diversity, community building and inclusion. And hopefully, our precious little Isabella will also learn about giving and sharing with others.
Want to take bets? How will this little experiement work? Do you have any holiday traditions that promote community building? Do Disney Princesses rock?
“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hope that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”
Because of our German heritage, St. Nicholas’ Feast day on Dec. 6th was the start of the Christmas season. The tradition of putting out our socks (or shoes) was always great fun.
Aaron, our son with the label of autism, and Tommy, our son with the label of normal are now 36 and 35 years old. Last post I wrote about how our holiday celebrations are evolving: St. Nick meets Disney Princesses.
The first year we were married, my mother-in-law Jean, hand-made Christmas stockings for our mantle. Of course, we were living in a small apartment with no fireplace or mantle, but it began a family tradition. You know this was a long time ago because while Tom’s sock was a typical crew man-sock, mine was shaped like silk hose plus garter. (Do they even make those anymore?)
To personalize the stockings, Jean lovingly sewed small schoolhouses on both of our stockings because we were teachers, adding a felt wedding ring on mine and a felt set of golf clubs on Tom’s. When I was pregnant, she made an “Our Grandbaby” sock for Aaron who was going to be born in December. Later I store-bought some Christmas stockings for both my sons but glued and sewed some Christmasy trim on the socks.
Now a generation later, I captured our family’s own Norman Rockwell moment—Isabella pointing to the “Our Grandbaby” stocking on our mantle.
Making New Family Traditions
Lots of families put up Christmas stockings, some find stockings that are personalized with each person’s name, or hobbies, or interests like socks for dog lovers, Barbie dolls, sports fans, or ….
But, our family made the old tradition our own by adding a token of some special moment each year on St. Nick’s Feastday.
Adding a Memory a Year
Throughout each year, Tom and I look for small tokens and give them to each other on St. Nick’s Day.
Vacations and trips were easy. There were always ready-made patches, pins, buttons we could pick up at souvenir shops. Scouts, school events, sporting ribbons and awards also were small and could be easily attached to the socks. We even added some mementos inside the socks, like Tommy’s business cards for each new job and Aaron’s first pay check. Now the front, back and inside of the socks carry magic moments to remember.
Our socks have become treasured scrapbooks of our lives.
Tommy’s Christmas Sock 35 Years
Aaron’s Christmas Sock 36 Years
What do you think? Does this tradition meet the test of inclusion+ normalization? Are Aaron and Tommy’s socks alike? Age-appropriate? Do these socks also celebrate their individual gifts and interests?
You can see Aaron’s Trolley Bus pin from our trips to the Smokies, the pin from Carlsbad Bat Cave, his school bus and Lakota Pin, his prom key chain, his Boy Scout patch from Woodland Trails, a horse pin from Cincinnati Riding for the Handicapped, National Park patches where he hiked with our family…
Tommy has Boy Scout pins, school patches from the cross-country team, buttons of him looking fierce in his junior high wrestling uniform. Tommy also hiked the same easy trails in the National Parks but those patches were not the same accomplishment they were for Aaron. Tommy was proud of his week in Philmont and the more difficult mountain hikes on the Appalachian Trail with his dad…
So both Aaron and Tommy had hiking patches. The difference was the intensity, duration and difficulty of the trails.
Both were proud accomplishments.
Tommy’s wife, Ana, bought Christmas stockings for their first Christmas together. Each year I give them some token to add to their sock. This year, Ana became a United States Citizen. After the ceremony the Daughters of the American Revolution passed out little flag pins. I asked for an extra one, planning to add it to her sock.
Aaron just moved into his new house, I have stockings ready for his first house decorating party, he will get a house key on his sock.
And so the tradition continues:
“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hope that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” (Night before Christmas)
Wishing you many happy memories this holiday season.
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
I hope you’ll share some of your family’s holiday celebrations. Is this an idea your family can adapt? Does your family celebrate St. Nick’s or have some unique tradition?
The second lawsuit was about racial segregation and the development of “magnet schools” to bring together children of different races, socio-economic backgrounds, and learning styles. We voluntarily enrolled our youngest son, Tommy, age five, into Sands’ Montessori School in the inner city to promote desegregation.
While the lawyers thought the two cases were different, our family knew they were both about building an inclusive community,valuing diversity, and learning from each other.
One of our first lessons about diversity came on St. Nick’s Feastday, Dec. 6th.
In true German tradition, the evening before St. Nick’s Feastday, Tommy wrote letters to Santa for both himself and Aaron, tucked them inside their shoes and placed them outside their bedroom door.
The next morning, Tommy was thrilled to find St. Nick left a note asking him to help spread the spirit of Christmas, be nice to his mother (ah-hem), a couple of candy bars and a pair of Batman socks.
Tommy was always shy. But he was so excited to show off his Batman socks he strutted in front of the mirror, decided his pants covered too much of the socks, and tucked his pants legs inside his socks. Batman socks ruled!
I of course, thought this was darling, took pictures for his Kindergarten scrapbook and drove him to school thinking I was one terrific mom, er, St. Nick.
Tommy joined his class, and I was hanging out with the school secretaries when Tommy’s teacher called into the office asking me to come to the kindergarten room. Over the PA I could hear Tommy sobbing and the rest of the children clearly agitated.
It took a couple of minutes to sort out the details, but apparently Tommy had proudly shown his Batman socks at Show and Tell.
What he learned was no one else in the class had ever heard of St. Nick. And what was worse, St. Nick did not pick up anyone else’s note to Santa. So using sophisticated kindergarten logic, that meant no one–except Tommy–was going to get anything for Christmas.
Further, Tommy felt terrible he hadn’t told them about St. Nick. He reckoned this mess was all his fault. He was “not spreading Christmas cheer” as he had been told in St. Nick’s message, so Santa would be mad at him and not give him anything either.
Tommy’s tear-streaked face would have been bad enough, but he was curled under a desk in the corner with his bare feet hanging out. His Batman socks were inside-out in the garbage can.
Well, this was clearly a kindergarten disaster of monumental proportions. Tommy’s caring teacher and I exchanged those adult looks that said we were supposed to fix this. We settled the children.
I brought Tommy back into the circle, held him in my lap and reassured two other children who were sitting nearby.
Mr. Leedom read Marcia Brown’s story, Stone Soup.
Stone SoupThe moral of the story is if we think in terms of “gifts” instead of “scarcity,” and if we see the unique beauty in our differences, customs and traditions, we will all have a richer life.
After the teacher finished the story, I fumbled out a few words about our class being a community just like the people in the story.
Sometimes our family or religious traditions are not familiar to everyone. Just like each of the families in the story Stone Soup, our class was full of families that could contribute special stories and traditions to celebrate the holidays.
(Kindergartners are very generous in allowing grown-ups to tell stories to make themselves feel better.)
I told them St. Nick came to our house because we were of German descent. I asked if anyone else had other traditions around the holidays and one student told the story of Kwanzaa, another about Hanukkah. I reassured everyone they needed to talk with their families about their holiday traditions, but that if Santa brought them gifts last year, he would surely bring them gifts this year.
As I looked around the circle at these children I had come to love, it dawned on me this was not the all-white, German Catholic, middle-class community school in which I had grown up.
This was exactly the kind of learning experience we wished for our sons.
Intellectually, I knew this was why we chose this school. This sharing was the gift of diversity and inclusion.
But this was more. This experience was a transformational moment for me, Tommy and perhaps some of the students.
Community Building Mix
The next day I brought in the ingredients for our own version of Stone Soup— “Building Community Snack Mix” and gave each of the students a Batman sticker.
For more information click on the community building mix.
Batman Socks Rule!
Tommy did get his Batman socks out of the garbage can. He wore them all kindergarten and into first grade until they were faded and had a hole in the heel. The Batman socks are part of his childhood legacy.
New St. Nick Traditions
Each year, for the last thirty years, we have placed the worn, torn Batman socks on our Christmas tree.
Now Tommy has a little girl of his own.
I want to wait a couple Christmases. But when our grandbaby goes to Kindergarten, the Batman socks are again going back to Tommy for his St. Nick’s Day present.
Hopefully, the story of “St. Nick and the Batman Socks” will become a cherished tradition to share with his daughter…and will continue to teach about diversity, community building and inclusion.
Do you have any St. Nick or holiday traditions that are unique to your family? Do you have any school memories about lessons in diversity, community building or inclusion? Do you have other ideas on how to build community during the holidays?
On Thanksgiving, I wanted to thank each of you for being part of our Climbing Every Mountain community.
It’s been an exciting experience to meet new friends and connect with people who care about people with disabilities.
Now, there are over one hundred and twenty articles or posts, hundreds of comments, and visitors from over ten countries. Inch by inch…. I’ve been reposting some of the “evergreen content” but hope to have new articles for the new year.
So NOW: I want to ask each of you to concentrate on TODAY and the people who bring you joy.
Right Now! Just for today, we accept that everything is just the way it is supposed to be.
Sure, we can begin the climb up the mountain again tomorrow, but for today we can feel good about who we are and the people we love.
This might be considered heresy for an advocate: But there are many wonderful things we don’t need to change.
I am so thankful for my husband Tom, who even though he thinks there are only space aliens on the web– he still loves me. After 51 years he is still my best friend.
I also want to thank my wonderful children and family: Aaron, Tommy, Ana, Isabella, and Vivian–I hope I haven’t embarrassed you too much. You do give me amazing memories and stories and teach me what life is all about.
Gift: A Song about Autism
It is hard to always look at “the silver lining,” see “the sunny side” or “the glass half full.” So, on this Thanksgiving Day, give yourself a gift and “listen to the music.”
Through My Eyes is a song about what it feels like to have autism. I thought this was beautiful and hope you will too. “Imagine seeing the world through my eyes.” Enjoy!
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best, Mary