One of the things I enjoy about being a newspaper editor is each day is different. The same can be said for parenting.
That’s what I was thinking Wednesday night when Carson, 11, came into our room. He was standing at our door with his pointer finger beckoning me. He made it clear he wanted me to follow him back to his room at 3:16 a.m. He could not find his favorite pillow, which I located in five seconds right next to his bed. When I found it, he giggled and shrugged his shoulders. In his nonverbal way, he was saying something along the lines of I forgot to check that side of the bed. I mumbled something, and he went back to bed giggling, which I can’t say was the case for me.
I was thinking similar thoughts a-bout each parenting day being unique when Beckett, 12, came downstairs incredulous I had not read an email he sent me a few minutes earlier. He was asking me if it was okay if he went outside skateboarding on Sunday afternoon. He said, “What aren’t you responding?” He quickly explained he had emailed me. I told him I was watching football and not checking my emails every minute. He then argued with me about how he had texted me and not emailed me. He had emailed me from upstairs rather than come downstairs and talked to me about it, but the argument was not worth it. I was quick to encourage him to go outside. A few minutes later, he couldn’t find his shoes and helmet and wanted help.
I was also reflecting on how interesting each day as a parent is when I discovered Beckett helped a friend’s parents hang Christmas lights recent-ly. I don’t recall any offers of assistance from my kid over the last few weekends when his mom and I were decorating around our house and yard. I do remember one quick chat when Beckett poked his head out the door and found me standing on the roof putting up lights. He asked me if
I had seen his iPad and remarked how hot it was up there. He advised I should put on shorts. Before I could ask him to hand me a new string of lights, he was back inside and had even abducted my phone, which was playing a podcast I was listening to at the time.
When I asked why he lent a hand to his friend’s dad but not me, he said he helped so his buddy could play. The sooner he was done his chores his friend would be allowed to hang out. I am playing that card in early January when it comes time to put away all the Christmas decorations.
There has not been a lot of talk about Santa Claus from our 12-year-old of late.
I’m confident I know why. He knows the truth, but is fine with not going into a lot of detail about it. I think he knows a good thing and doesn’t need to call it out. When he does want to talk about it, I plan to revisit something I came across online years ago. I wish I knew the source of it, but I screenshot it six years ago on my phone to retain for years later.
I assume the awkward conversation will arise at some point this month. It’s fine and I understand it’s probably time to move on. I like the spirit behind this passage because it might stick with Beckett like it did with me when I read it years ago. I wanted to share it with others as it might be helpful.
Son: Dad, I think I’m old enough to know now – is there a Santa Claus?
Dad: (Stalling to figure out an answer) Okay, I agree that you’re old enough. But before I tell you, I have a question for you. The truth is a dangerous gift. Once you know something, you can’t unknow it. Are you sure that you want to know?
Son: (After a brief pause) Yes, I want to know.
Dad: Okay, I’ll tell you. Yes there IS a Santa Claus.
Dad: Yes, really but he’s not an old man with a beard and red suit. That’s just what we tell kids. You see, kids are too young to understand the truth about Santa Claus until they are as old as you are. The truth is San-ta Claus isn’t a person, it is an idea. Think of all of the presents Santa gave you over the years. I actually bought those myself. I watched you open them. And did it bother me that you didn’t thank me? Of course not. In fact, it gave me the greatest joy. You see, Santa Claus is the idea of giving for the sake of giving, without thinking of thanks or acknowledgement. When I saw that woman collapse in the grocery store last week and call for help, I knew that she’d never know that it was me who called the ambulance.
I was being Santa Claus when I did that.
Dad: So now that you know, you are part of it. You have to be Santa Claus also. It means that you can nev-er tell a young child the secret and you can help us select Santa presents for your younger siblings. Most importantly you have to look for opportunities to help people all year, not just at Christmas. Got it?
Son: Yeah, I think so. Thanks, Dad.