I guess I’m simple. I want my sons to grow up to be nice people who strive to make this imperfect world better. I try to model, not just talk about, important values. Honesty is among the values I hold most dear. I tell my kids the truth, even when it is hard, because I want them to trust me and choose honesty for themselves. Yes, the vaccine will hurt, but only for a moment. Yes, Mommy makes mistakes too, but she tries to learn from them and do better next time. Inevitably when Christmas rolls around each year, I feel like such a liar. The whole Santa thing sort of bothers me. It may sound ridiculous, but it is true. I know most parents love creating the magic of Christmas, but I struggle with it. I lie to my kids about Santa’s existence and society reinforces some messages I don’t think are ideal. Take the excessive materialism for instance. Then the notion that some all-knowing person is constantly watching to see if kids are “bad” or “good” and at whim will decide whether or not they deserve to get presents is creepy and controlling. I don’t brandish my children as “bad” or “good.” I talk to them about the choices they make, positively reinforce their good choices, help them understand there are natural consequences of poor choices, and ultimately, try to teach them that they are always learning and growing. I want them to know that they, not Santa, are powerful in their own lives.
Don’t even get me started on that darn Elf on the Shelf. Yes, we have one. No, I can’t stand it. I think I moved the thing twice all season. There is a ten year age gap between my two sons. I don’t recall the Elf on the Shelf being a thing when my seventeen-year-old was little, but it certainly became a thing sometime before my seven-year-old was born. I bought the Elf on the Shelf for my younger son because I was afraid if he heard about it from other children, he would feel bad about himself and wonder why he didn’t have one too. The idea that a little elf flies back and forth to the North Pole each night to report on my son’s behavior is downright disturbing. My son spent much of the interlude between Thanksgiving and Christmas perseverating about whether he was a “good boy.” He has attention difficulties. Somehow he got it in his head that having trouble concentrating and following directions equated to being a “bad boy.” It broke my heart. This year I decided if I was going to be a Christmas liar, I was going to lie in a way that helped my son. I wrote him a letter from Santa to make him feel better about himself and I tried my best to empower him. Here is the letter my son received from “Santa” on Christmas morning…
I hope you don’t mind me calling you Nick instead of Nicholas. My name is also Nick and I like that we share the same name.
You and I are very similar in other ways too. Besides having the same name, we both have a lot of love in our hearts, we have empathy for others, and we are so kind. I see when you ask your friends, family, and teachers if they are okay. I know you do it because you care about their feelings. I see how you share. I see how often you tell your brother that he is the best brother in the whole world. I hear you tell your family that you love them. I see you give them hugs and kisses. You are such a good son. You are such a good brother. You are such a good friend. You are such a good student. Nick you are a VERY, VERY, VERY good boy.
Did you notice how I capitalized all those VERYs? It is because I want emphasize how much I think you are a good boy. I know sometimes when you have a hard time following directions you don’t feel like a good boy, but I promise you that you are. You have so much kindness in your heart that it makes others feel happy. Always remember that.
I brought you presents that I hope you will like. Can I give you one last gift? It is a trick that will make it easier to follow directions. When I was little I had a hard time following directions too. I kept thinking about inventing new toys and it was hard for me to concentrate. My mom taught me a direction-following trick called PHADA that helped me a lot and I would like to share it with you.
PHADA Direction Following Trick
P Pause-when you hear someone talking to see if the person is speaking to you.
H Hear-every word that is said.
A Answer-a question if you are asked one.
D Do-what you are asked to do.
A Applaud-your good PHADA work!
Merry Christmas, Nick!
a.k.a. Saint Nick”