Friday, December 27, 2013

The Art of Deception

With another Christmas season in the rear view mirror, I have been thinking a lot about the lies we tell our children to keep the magic alive. It may seem harsh to say it that way, but it's true. And I am not very good at sneaking around. Take the Tooth Fairy for instance. Paul has lost five teeth, and each time I need to sneak into his room to retrieve a tooth and leave some quarters I have an overwhelming fear of being caught. What would I do if his little eyes popped open and discovered that Mom was the Tooth Fairy? He lost tooth #4 at school and I carefully placed it in a tissue and put it under his pillow. That night I was out and when hubby put Paul to bed they could't find the tooth. I went back during the night, feeling around in the dark for the missing tooth. Eventually I gave up, slid the money under his pillow and hoped he wouldn't roll over and discover the missing tooth. Thankfully my deep sleeper didn't hear me rummaging around, and I found the tooth in the sheets the next day when the boy was at school.
This Christmas as I was putting Santa presents under the tree I had a similar fear of getting caught. Paul said he wanted to "catch Santa" by staying awake and hoping to spot him coming down the chimney. As I sat on the couch munching on carrots and gingerbread cookies I kept a watchful eye toward the hallway leading into our family room. Every noise worried me (which did not stop me from slurping up the milk) and I tried to formulate some sort of explanation should my eldest make an appearance. Again, I was saved by deep sleep.
There will come a day, hopefully not too soon, where the boys will realize that mom and dad are the ones buying the gifts and putting them under the tree each year. What will be the punishing blow? For my eldest niece, it was the discovery of a box containing all her baby teeth. Her mother had performed elaborate feats to keep my niece's beliefs alive for a long time, and the day she discovered the box of teeth was difficult and painful. Everything fell like dominoes and my mother-in-law needed to comfort her granddaughter for hours as she cried away the magical mysteries of childhood. The good thing about my boy is that despite his penchant for the practical, he has a strong spark of imagination. He sleeps with a row of stuffed animals and his sacred blue blanket every night, talking with them in a secret language that only he understands. It makes me smile because, despite our lack of genetic connection, we share a similar spirit. I too spoke to my stuffed animals and had a secret language that I shared with my invisible friends. It is that spirit that will keep Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny alive a bit longer. I have a feeling that even when he figures it all out, he will still want to participate in the ritual and will still appreciate the magic of Christmas. I hope we can hang on for a few more years. Seeing the faces of my boys light up when they got what they wished for was an amazing moment. Paul even got a few extra things that weren't on his modest list. It was worth all the lies and scamming, the sneaking around with bags and special wrapping paper, to experience the pure joy of a childhood miracle.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Trying not to be Grinch-y

I like Christmas, I really do. But it has been difficult getting into the spirit this year. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Christmas has been in the stores and on the radio since Halloween, or perhaps it is the fact that instead of snow it is currently a balmy 60 degrees out, or perhaps my head isn't screwed on just right. Whatever the reason, the stores or the snow, I just can't seem to find joy this season. Last year at this time my husband's family was dealing with the fatal illness of my father-in-law. We were able to spend the holiday with him before he passed, so I know this year is going to be sad and painful for the family. I can remember the first Christmas after my grandmother died, I fell to the floor in tears when I tried making cookies in her old mixer. It will be hard to stay upbeat during our first Christmas without Pop-pop. But my melancholy stems from more than the empty place at the table. Because of my lack of work this fall, we've had to pinch pennies, and I fear the boys will be disappointed to find out just how tight Santa's budget was. Thankfully they each kept their lists short, but Paul somehow managed to single out the most expensive, discontinued toys on the market. Instead of circling in the catalogs this year, he went into one of his collector's books to find ideas. I blame the stores again. Their giant toy catalogs came out in early November and I recycled them. Oops. Alas, I have been exploring the wonders of E-bay and hoping there aren't crazy man-children living in their parents' basement waiting to outbid me at the last second. Sorry, that was a cruel stereotype. I just spent time yesterday watching in depth videos of children's toys narrated by men. Weird.
But as the Grinch discovers, Christmas came without "packages, boxes or bags." It should be about family, togetherness and tradition. Hubby and I have been trying to develop new traditions with the boys and hopefully some of them will stay in their hearts long after the wrapping paper has been tossed into the recycling bin. My big sister is coming in this weekend to make cookies with me and the boys and I plan to make a mess and not be overly controlling if that is genetically possible. John is excited about making snow flakes to decorate the kitchen (and make up for the mud outside). Somehow I'll get myself in the spirit. But I will not, under any circumstances, be carving the roast beast.