Monday, December 4, 2006


My son, my sweet soulful boy, who has such compassion and love in his heart, has a raging case of the Christmas "Gimmes". Not to be confused with the Birthday "Gimmes". We just got over those a couple weeks ago, but apparently he's had a bad relapse, because he's like a broken record.

We visted Santa the other day. Which was lovely, and fine and took me out of my horrible mood. He was really excited, and loves telling Santa about his year, and asking what kind of cookies he wants. But what was really top on his list was "what will you bring me?" He told Santa he wanted a remote control helicopter, only because there was a vendor cart set up right next to Santa's little set up, one of those carts run by slick salespeople who make the remote control whatever run right in front of your child so that they will immediately want it, and you will spend the next 2 hours hearing about it. I hate those carts. Almost as much as I hate the carts where the salesperson, who is always a man, says (while eyeing my dry, aging hands) "Maam?!" (off to a bad start already - Most women over the age of 26 HATE being called "Maam") "Maam!, would you like to try our miracle hand cream, guaranteed to take care of unsightly dryness and age spots?" And then they take your hand and rub them with goo, between their own hands, all the while selling the bejesus out of this cream. It makes me queasy just to think about it. And I've never once let anyone do it for that reason. Ugh. It just completely creeps me out.

Anyway, so he told Santa what he wanted - a remote control flying helicopter. Okay, that's manageable. But yesterday while he and his dad were out on a Max Train excursion, they stopped in a toy store. Because my wonderful husband works 40 hours a week, going into a toy store with Joe-Henry isn't something he gets to do often, so he has no idea how treacherous this has become. I usually a) avoid it altogether, or b) have a talk with him right before we go inside, saying there will be no toys, we are looking only, and if there is a tantrum about something he wants or when we leave then nothing will go on the list to Santa. I get pretty strict about this around his birthday and Christmas because he has so many toys our house could burst. Anyway, because it was a special outing with his dad, he got to pick out a toy. I will say that my smart husband did make him buy it with his own money that he got for something he did this summer, so he wasn't a total softie. But in the course of this toy store safari, he saw something that has been the only topic of conversation since he got home. Three playmobil train sets. They each cost an arm and a leg. And he is obsessed.

He won't be getting any of these particular trainsets, not because we have too many trains as it is (we do), and not because he will outgrow this particular trainset by next year (he will), or even because we are scrooges (we aren't), but because we have it on good authority that Grandma and Grandpa are getting him a Lionel. The stuff that dreams are made of. Something he will never outgrow. So we know better that he's getting something EVEN COOLER than the thing he's wishing for. But something else is really bothering me, and I guess it's this. I have a hard time witnessing this outright greed in my son. I just really don't want this Christmas, and all Christmases to come to be about stuff. I've had enough of it. I want to teach him, without, you know TEACHING him, what it's about. It's about love, and generosity of spirit, and magic and wonder. It is, isn't it? Because here's the thing - at any other time of the year, my son is all of those things. He is generous of spirit, he's full of magic and wonder and overflows with love. He shows me all the time how to be a better person, just by being himself.

So I will do my best to return the favor and be a model - to not sigh too heavily when he goes on and on (and on) about this train. I will let myself pause while putting up our decorations, remembering each ornament on our tree, the memories that they are made of. I will do my very best not to snap (although I know from experience not to guarantee this one), and I will try even harder not to give in to the impulse to get him that train. I will strain mightily to let this better impulse win out, to actually do the tough job of parenting.

But in the meantime, I might need a good stiff eggnog.

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