Here’s an article I authored from right around Christmas, two years ago:
As a parent, I’ve never really felt “Christmas Pressure”. You know…trying to make sure everyone is happy on Christmas morning. That’s Santa’s job. He is the one who needs to come in “on time and under budget” so to speak. As a dad, I’m pretty much only in charge of two things: setting up the video camera before anyone wakes up, and yelling at everyone to clean up the wrapping paper on Christmas afternoon when we’re done. Between those two responsibilities I just sit back and enjoy watching the children and playing with their toys. It is a pretty nice setup. No real pressure.
And it was almost all ruined last year due to two little letters. Two letters to Santa. From two of my children. For the first time I felt a little pressure. Let me explain…
About a year ago I arrived home from work to find a letter that my then four-year-old had penned to Santa that Janese and I were supposed to send to the Big Guy. Here is the letter, word for word: “Dear Santa, I want a penguin. Love, Ashley”. I’m sure her teacher helped her because things like the grammar, punctuation, and spelling were all correct. What I didn’t understand was why the teacher didn’t say, “Oh Ashley, why don’t you ask for a dolly, or a puppy or a fly-fishing pole for Christmas. Penguins are so messy…”
Upon reading that note, I realized this: Santa can’t live up to this. A Penguin? Where’s he going to get one of those? And where are we going to keep it? What do they eat? Whose bed is it going to sleep in? Ashley was being set up for quite a disappointing Christmas morning.
If that weren’t enough, exactly ten days after Ashley’s letter came to my attention, I read Parker’s letter to the Santa right here in The Leader. Here is Parker’s letter (age six at the time, and I decided not to fix his spelling): “Dear Santa, Haw do yure randre fli I want to noe. And thank you for the presents last yare. Ples give me a elf. Parker M.”.
Santa’s job in 2007 was to furnish our family with a penguin and an elf. I began to realize that there was a chance that my wonderful children were going to be a little disappointed come Christmas morning. You know what? They weren’t. They were happy. Just like almost every other Christmas. Santa brought a few things. We made a mess with wrapping paper. I video-taped everything. Not a hint of disappointment anywhere. I think it reminded me that not much has changed with Christmas since I was a kid.
I don’t remember more than a handful of the presents I received all through my years as a child and teenager. What I do remember was wrestling with my little brothers in a big pile of wrapping paper. I remember playing Nerf basketball in our hallway after all of the presents were opened. I remember watching movies together with my family and laughing and eating as a group. I remember talking to my grandparents on the phone to thank them for the presents they sent. I don’t remember ever being disappointed at not receiving a gift I had hoped for. Ever. I just have good memories of being with my family during Christmas Break from school.
So, no matter what the children write in their letters this year, I’ll let Santa worry about that, and I’ll worry about being a fun dad who has the video camera, the garbage bag full of wrapping paper, and a Nerf hoop. I think we’ll be fine….Merry Christmas….