A friend who recently became a parent asked me some questions the other day:
As Christmas approaches, we are having discussions about what to do about Santa.
I don't love the idea of him. Though, I do love the idea of St. Nicholas. I don't want to squelch magic and imagination in my kid, and I don't want him to feel left out. I also don't ever want to lie to him and hate the idea of good=presents, bad=nothing. There's also the whole point of privilege of Santa and children whom he doesn't visit because they are poor...what do you do in order to help yourselves think through this process. Care to share?
So I wrote her back:
I am writing you right now.
And I am distracted by how long it took me to reply to this as I have thought of it every day and felt Not Ready. I am in the grips of "doing it all wrong" so to have you ask me specifics feels particularly vulnerable and on point. I do not enjoy the hype of Christmas as much as I do not enjoy Halloween.
For the first years with Henry and Svea I could blame it on living in Indiana since we traveled during the holidays and "reindeer food" and "Christmas Morning" just looked different. Then we joined a church and Christmas looked like "why is Daddy never home". Ouch. Then I started enjoying the Advent preparation and Xmas Eve services which meant negotiating with tired children and just throwing the towel in at the end of the night, hoping to stay up long enough to tell Brian I was proud of him.
This year, I have no idea what it will look like.
My Henry (11yo) loves Target. He loves shopping. He is methodical and meticulous. When he walks into Target, he is overcome with the smell of newness. This is how we taught him about Greed. Greed is how you feel when you enter Target and want to live there.
At this point, today, I am trying to teach Henry how to personify Christmas (as Santa, St. Nicholas, Etc.). I want him to be SO EXCITED about Jesus' birth that he wants to buy gifts for OTHER PEOPLE. Which is totally scandalous for a greedy 11yo. He will tell me I am so weird and to please not walk next to him and why am I wearing black pants that are normal.
Svea, my 10yo, has made presents for everyone and wrapped them while singing lullabies into the process and does not understand the concept of greed. She's using her artwork from school as gifts and recycling materials for wrapping paper...and hoping for more time watching tweeny shows on Disney Channel.
Corinne, 5yo, thinks Christmas is about performing with microphones and costumes and altars and stages and why is everyone NOT looking at her?????
(do you see why I struggle with "doing it all wrong"?)
All I have to say to you, dear friend, is that I have no idea. I re-invent every year based on sleep deprivation, nutrition, anger, love, tradition, what I need to "get over" personally and what I need to ask those around me to "get over."
In the meantime - I want you to hear this - YOU CAN DO THIS AND ONLY YOU KNOW HOW.
Is this ever so unhelpful?
And she wrote me back:
I appreciate your taking the time to answer me, though, despite your feelings of doing it all wrong and embracing your vulnerability. I appreciate your vulnerability more than you know. Maybe I've drunk too much of the Brene Brown cool-aid, but I continue to believe it is the only way we can truly CONNECT to one another.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” - So says Brene. I think I agree.
I do not enjoy Christmas. Hence, my crisis of not wanting to influence my son with such feelings unnecessarily. (Though, I'm aware he is too young for that this year. He is merely content to play with an empty water jug, look at himself in the mirror, and make ridiculous pterodactyl noises). I do not enjoy obligatory gift giving (though, I love giving gifts when I am not expected to do so). I do not enjoy pressure of getting everyone together because WE JUST HAVE TO (though, I do enjoy stress free quality time with those I hold dear and even those I don't yet).
In my own vulnerability, I think my questions about Christmas stem from larger questions of purpose and meaning that are brought on from many different facets of this phase of life. I found this article about why Krista Tippett is not doing Christmas this year and it was helpful.
So, in the meantime while I sit in the weird, I find the prospect of bread baking and potential pottery classes grounding.
Peace, love, and advent blessings (or something).
I read the Krista Tippett article and love her final paragraph:
As I said, we need each other. And that impulse, surely, is deep in the original heart even of the most secular things like Santa Claus and surrounding your home with lights: examining what we are to each other and experiencing that, sometimes when we do this, something transcendent happens.
For now, for today, I will "examine what we are to each other" and stay present with that...and believe that something transcendent will happen...in the form of clarity and connection and the crazy story of a baby in a manger...