Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting Rid of Baby

There's nothing like a helium balloon to really put me in a mood.

It started when I was a nanny. I learned that a three-year-old does not understand the worth of a balloon in tears. In a normal world we'll say the loss of an above average, helium filled, purple balloon with a ribbon attached is worth maybe seven or eight tears. We'll even generously double that if the balloon floated off into the blue yonder during the first five minutes of ownership.

But in a three-year-old world one can devote hours of tears to the loss of a balloon. As well as innumerable howls, thrashings, surprisingly conversant epithets, and a good deal of begging.

Of course not all balloons are created equal. Some are the very pedestrian monochromatic, tear drop variety while others are. . .say, giant mylar baby heads.

Evidently if you are a lawyer having a baby, your other lawyer friends give you a giant, mylar, baby head balloon at your baby shower. And if you are a really nice lawyer (which I would argue is more common than some might suppose), and my sister-in-law you give the balloon to my kids.

It's ok.

You didn't know.

How could you know about the balloon calamity of 1995?

How could you know that one balloon and three children is Armageddon? Or that a floating ballon - especially one with a giant head - in a car with three children is a safety hazard in the same way that the space shuttle reentering the earth's atmosphere is a safety hazard?

All this aside, it's kind of a disturbing balloon. Which, as I think on it now, may be why you gave it away in the first place.

My kids adopted this ballon as they might have adopted a kitten; squeals of delight, petting, bickering over who gets to hold it, chasing it, and yanking it away from each other. Cecily darted around the older two yelling "I want the giant baby! Give me the giant baby!"

As we were getting ready to leave the house the other day I told the kids that we could not go anywhere until the giant baby was gone, as it was still floating aimlessly and ever lower inside the van.

They ran out to "take care of " giant baby so we could get on with our outing.

However, when I got to the car all children were quietly buckled into their seats waiting for me to discover this:

"Can we keep it, Mom? Huh, can we, can we."

I'd still like to jab a pin right into one of those giant rosy cheeks.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Santa Struts and Frets His Hour Upon The Wrong Stage

Christmas is different as an adult than a child.

Las year I really created Christmas - in so far as I am able. I wrapped many presents, stuffed stockings, and made a big wall of wrapping paper covering the entrance to the family room which the kids were not meant to brake through until they came to get us. Of course the kids woke up and immediately broke through the paper like wild Christmas bulls and emptied all the stockings before coming to get us.

I'm not much of a creator when it comes to special events. Holidays come, holidays go and more often than not it was just a number on the calendar with a nod from the crowd in our house.

This is not the way kids want to experience holidays. They want the magic of twinkle lights and tinsel. They want the breathtaking possibility that a big fat man in red, or a little Irish man in green came to visit while they were asleep. They want tracks from the abominable Easter bunny leaving evidence of a hurried escape through the spring mud of our back garden. They want to plaster the walls with pink hearts before Dad gets home so he knows it is Valentine's day.

My problem is three fold:




We'll go with the last since time and money are obvious and boring.

We had some friends over for dinner several weeks ago who asked if we had any Christmas traditions. Aside from peaches and whipped cream on waffles for breakfast and . . . gifts (if that counts), we don't really have any traditions. Our friends were starting a new tradition with their children. A kind of advent activity where the kids open a small wrapped gift each day of December. Inside is an activity for everyone to do as a family, e.g. drink hot chocolate, sing Christmas songs, visit Temple square, read a story, play a board game, have a fire, etc.

This would provide all the magic of Christmas my kids could hope for at their age. It would make up for Caroline's disappointment that there were no packages under the tree with a tag that said "From Santa". Despite filled stockings she is convinced Santa skipped our house.

But the jury is still out when it comes to Santa in our house. I don't really talk about it. I am evasive with their questions. I confirm and deny nothing.

Sometime in December Caroline said to me "Mom, did you know that Christmas is not just about Santa, it's about Jesus too. You never told me that. My primary teacher told me that."
Yes I did!
And what do you mean too?
Christmas is about Jesus, not Santa.
Except Santa is fun, and the tradition is fun, and the possibility is fun. They just need to have their own holidays. It seems ridiculous and almost impossible as a parent to carry on these incompatible parallel holidays. Either we have a day to celebrate the birth of Christ, and a separate Father Christmas, gift giving day, or we just drop the whole Santa charade entirely.

The Scene:
Four innocent, guileless children sitting on the couch.
Me: Kids, there is NO Santa Claus. He is imaginary. Your Dad and I fill your stockings after you go to sleep on Christmas eve. There is only Jesus, the Son of God, and Savior of mankind.
Kids: Tears.

Truth comes in blows -- as they say.

Why does it have to be one or the other? Because we force them to share a holiday. They've got no business fraternizing. We should not thrust the imminent disappointment of a Santa-less world onto the same stage as Deity.

Matt told me a story (half the details of which I am sure I will get wrong) about a little girl who learned in a short period of time that Santa is not real, the Easter Bunny is not real and the Tooth Fairy is not real. Her next tearful question for the parents she had trusted so well was inevitably "Is Jesus real?"

How can children navigate the nature of our deception?
Should they have to?

I like getting presents.
I like giving presents.
I don't see how it relates to celebrating the birth of Christ.
In light of this Christmas dichotomy I propose a new tradition for my family. I would like to add a day to our celebration of the birth of the Saviour. A day that stands apart from the traditional, commercial version of Christmas. I'm not sure yet how to do this. I'll think on the details and see what emerges in December of 2011.

I'm open to suggestions. Have you figured out how to give your children truth and magic simultaneously?