Friday, December 12, 2008

Why I'm glad Santa Came to our Church Christmas Party

Warning: I've had a very gone, or very asleep husband since thanksgiving, I got 4 hours of sleep last night, and I've been thinking about empty spaces under the Christmas tree instead of my empty womb all month.

Reuben and I went to our Ward Christmas party tonight. Reuben was calm and pleasant until the party started, and then he was a maniac. Most of the children were maniacs, its been raining for the last few days, so a hallway that goes all the way around means a race track to Manhattan children. But, because I don't have control over who walks in off the street, or which kids decide to take a ride in the elevator, my not-even-three child couldn't be one of those running wild.

I finally caught him in one of his laps around the 4th floor, and asked him nicely to come into the party so we could take pictures. He screamed bloody murder, so I picked him up and he slapped me in the face, knocking my glasses off. Reuben so rarely does things like this that it really gets to me when he does, and the frustration was compounded by the fact that there was no where I could give him a time-out, but the bathroom. (The Harlem building has to lock the class room doors, and even if they were unlocked, there weren't any classrooms on the floor we were on, so I would have had to go to a dark deserted floor.) So we did time-out in the bathroom. Here is the problem with time-outs in the bathroom, bathrooms are magical places where people always come in and out with their happy faces on, there is water, there are children who have to see me with my mother face on, and there is nothing to absorb the sound of a tantrum. I set him on the changing table, and turned on my "I am very upset with you face." He took full advantage of the acoustics in that magical space, screaming and yelling "NOOOO!!" and "Don't touch me!" and "Let me wash my hands!" I almost took him home, he was such a terror, but when he calmed down he apologized, and made some promises. And, by some miracle, he kept them. He stayed in the gym where I could see him, and Santa came 15 minutes later.

Justin and I haven't had the parental talk to decide about Santa, yet. But, this is what I have decided: Santa is a good example, he will be nice to you (maybe even give you a present or candy) if you go up to him and say "Merry Christmas." And once you see him, that's it. He's given you a gift (even if it was just being really nice to you), but he is a busy man, and there are people that need him more than you, so be grateful for what you got. This means I will have to bring my kid to see Santa every year, and find the one in town that will at least give a candy cane, but I'm fine with that. That way I don't have to have him expecting all kinds of presents from Santa, I don't have to give Santa the credit for what little we can get him, and he doesn't go around telling the other kids that Santa doesn't exist. Reuben was completely satisfied with seeing Santa, and getting a paper bag filled with cheap Oriental Trading Company stuff. On our walk home he told me Santa had "circle hair" and gave him a present, and that was enough to fulfill Reuben's need for Santa this year, and make me feel good about my stance on the Santa front.

I have a horrible memory, but I honestly can't remember a time when I actually BELIEVED in Santa. I believed in surprises, and the hard work that my parents did to provide a magical Christmas morning, but I knew where those gifts were coming from... and not because I snooped and found them all in the days leading up to Christmas, because I didn't do that. I remember a walk-man, a camera, beautiful new white ice skates, I remember baby dolls, and wooden cradles, I remember desks. I remember Christmas ornaments, and a snowflake necklace. I remember underwear, and socks, and a new sweater or skirt. I remember knowing I was going to get the same things as my sisters, except for that one gift that was really meant for me. I remember saying thank you to the people in the room. I don't remember Santa.

I've been thinking about gift giving this year, because of our lack of ability to do so. We have a wonderful gift called plane tickets (even those couldn't have been done without the help of the grandparents, thank you grandparents) and that is basically it. I am excited and ready to use that gift, but that space in my heart that yearns for my family to have everything they want, hurts a little when I think of how little unwrapping will be going on for Reuben and Justin. Our plan is to get Reuben a puzzle and wrap each of the pieces separately, so that might trick him into thinking he got gifts (SHHH!!! don't tell him that plan). But, for Justin, I've got nothing. It doesn't help that Christmas is well within the memory of his Birthday, so another coupon book for nice free things from the wife seems a little redundant, especially because none of the birthday coupons have been used yet.

I'm, finally, a stay-at-home mom (STAHM), and that's why we don't have any money beyond our comfortable Manhattan apartment, groceries, cell phone, energy, netflix, and internet (really, we live a life of luxury, and don't need anything more). I give time everyday to raising Reuben, to letting daddy do his homework, and to making sure we eat. And while being a STAHM is a wonderful gift that I will never take for granted because I know what its like to be a working-full-time-with-nothing-left-over-to-be-a-mom mom, it makes me sad that I can't provide a little traditional pleasantry for my family. And, that is the ONLY thing I miss about being a working mom, that, and the insurance.

We have so much, it is really frustrating that for this one day, I am wishing I had more instead of being grateful for what we have. Its not even that I think Reuben should get a bike/tricycle/scooter, and Justin should get a huge flat screen tv, because that is just crazy talk. I am frustrated that for all my nativity reading, baby Jesus song singing, snowflake making, Santa avoiding, Christmas is still about the presents, and I'm 28 and don't even expect any presents for myself.

And that brings us back to Santa. I am glad Santa came to our church Christmas party because even though it was the opposite of what I thought I needed reminders of this Christmas, it was exactly what I needed. Reuben really did let out blood curdling screams, and slapped his mother in the face, he really did make me think he intended to act so badly that we would have to leave the party, and he would have to spend the rest of the night in his dark room, alone and miserable. But, he was able to ask for forgiveness, and I was able to forgive him, and we were both able to start over, him with the task of being an obedient loving person, and me with the hope he could do that so we could live happily ever after. And, because all of that happened, he was able to be there to see Santa, to get a little gift, and I was able to see his eyes light up like it was the best Christmas ever, I was reminded that I need to be way less worried about the empty Christmas morning, because seeing Santa was enough, and we can focus on the story of being able to ask for and receive forgiveness, and get a clean start, and have the hope of living happily ever after, with the few chances of seeing Santa as the short-term reward.

When we were walking home he said, "I'm sorry I did that." and I said, "Thank you for being sorry." And he said, "Yeah.... I'm tired." And I said," Let's get home and go to sleep." And then he told me about the circle hair that Santa had, and his best friend Jeff (one of the nursery leaders) and that he was dizzy. And that is what Christmas is, starting over because there is enough love to do so.


Lark said...

Thank you for not letting your son run wild in the church. I spent some time last night asking the apparent parent less children at our Branch party to stop running in the church. Reverence in all we do is a Christmas message worth your efforts.

By the way it is a family tradition to not remember who old you are. If you need to know I will tell you.

Fudge, home made fudge for Christmas. Lets make some when you come home. You can give it to your husband.

Children don't expect what they have not yet experienced. A mothers need to give her child Christmas packages comes from her own memories. You have a wonderful opportunity to make Christmas about Christlike gifts, and gratitude for the necessities of life. It is a blessing not to have everything you want without years of effort.

Your parents had nothing to give you when you were two years old. You survived and blessed them with your wonderfulness. The third child got the bouncing horse your parents wanted for you. After 30 years your mother got a chair she always wanted.

New socks and underpants were always a blessing remember. One Christmas my children came home from school after Christmas vacation to tell us their class mates had gotten TV sets for their bed rooms. I was so grateful they were the kind of a people who were thankful for the necessities of life. That attitude has been a life long blessing in their lives.

My parents often gave us oranges and horehound candy because they were treats from their childhood. Horehound candy is nasty stuff but it made my parent feel they had shared the joy of their own childhoods. I felt that if I provided glass candy dishes full of chocolates the magic and joy of my childhood Christmas mornings would pour into your life. Remember it is the small and simple things that make the BIG difference.

The Mason Family said...

This was a great post. I'm glad I can read your blog now. I often find myself feeling sad that holidays are used as tools to sell us dissatisfaction and that it's becoming harder and harder for the older generations to help the younger ones understand and appreciate the "something" that the day is meant to celebrate. It's good to know there are still strong parents willing to swim against the current.

I also really appreciate your approach to the Santa Claus dilemma and I may just have to adopt it.

Brice Family said...

I don't know you (I know some of your friends and found your blog linked to theirs), but I just thought of an idea. How about checking out some books from the library and wrapping those under the tree for Christmas morning? It seems like it might be a fun thing for Reuben to unwrap. I know my daughter LOVES getting new books from the library, even though she knows they aren't ours, and that we will eventually take them back. Just a thought. Though there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with simply going with the puzzle.

Mick said...

I told my kids that I had to pay for everything Santa brought. That helped explain why he brought crappy stuff to poor people.

Michael and Natalie said...

Now that I have a little girl I'm starting to understand what you're saying about not being able to give her everything they want. Because my parents are from Argentina they never, thankfully, understood the concept of getting anyone more than one gift for Christmas, let alone anything that was extravagant. I don't recall being resentful and to this day I can conceive of WHY Christmas involves so many gifts and wrapping paper. However, I still can understand. Bur I guess this is the time to remember that whatever you do for Reuben right now, that is what will continue to be normal to him. If he has Christmas with love and family and singing and a few token gifts then that is what Christmas will mean to him. It's a blessing, really, because maybe he'll be one of the blessed few that gets to enjoy Christmas for the togetherness and sheer joy that comes from being reminded of the Savior's birth as opposed to all the gifts.