The Santa Conundrum
December 22, 2007
My nearly 7-year-old boy--who's in full-time first grade and is, for the first time in his life, spending the vast majority of his day in company other than his immediately family--recently dropped this bomb on me:
BOY: Dad, is there really a Santa Claus? Tell me the truth.
Apparently, there are a couple naysayers in his class spreading the Your-Parents-Do-It gospel, and this got him to thinking. At any rate, the question put me in a fair pickle. I have a problem telling my kids what to believe when it comes to some things. Santa. Religion. The competence of the Bush Administration. I certainly have my own passionately held views on these topics, yet I'm reluctant to simply indoctrinate. Educate, guide, even opine: fine. But to say this or that subjective thing is true and you ought to believe it... eh, not so clear-cut to me where I should come down.
Take the Santa question. I have issues, mainly with the way Santa is tied to consumerism and behavior. Be good, or else Santa won't bring you a plastic gewgaw manufactured in China and marked up by Toy R Us. Bugs me. Don't think it sends a good message, quite frankly. A kindly figure who lives at the North Pole with elves and tends to his flying reindeer. I'm OK with that. But the fact he brings rich kids xBoxes and poor kids diddly (actually, most poor kids probably get something, thanks to the ubiquitous annual toy drives... a charity that always strikes me as disproportionately popular) is not a situation I like highlighting. Still, I think there is something wondrous for children in the image of that kindly old figure and the idea of gifts freed from parental control. So, treading as carefully as I could, here's my answer:
Well, I've never seen Santa, but I've never seen a lot of things people say are real. I do believe there are many things that are real and true that you can't always see, but I wonder if they're always the way people imagine them. Maybe Santa's not so much about going around giving people presents as making people feel good, making people want to be generous and kind to one another. I like giving presents to other people, don't you? (He agrees.) Maybe Santa helps spread around the feeling that makes us enjoy giving, as well as getting, presents. I don't know for sure, son--but that's what I believe.
I'll tell you one thing I know is true. When you come downstairs Christmas morning, there will be presents under the tree. Some of them, mommy and I put there. Some came from your grandma and grandpa. Some came from your sister or your aunts and uncles and cousins. And there will be some that I have no idea where they came from. Maybe that's Santa right there.
He agreed the mystery gifts likely came from Santa, though he asked if we could hide a video camera in the tree to try to catch him on tape. I said we'd have to see about that.
The Truth Hurts
December 20, 2007
Gizmodo.com, a news/review site for assorted consumer tech gadgets, is one I look at from time to time, and on rare occasion, even post a comment on an article. The other day, I was reading a piece about the new Amazon Kindle--a gadget that's piqued my interest a bit--so I went to log in to leave my two-bits on a message board. En route, I paused to check my profile in Gizmodo, which I have never populated. This is what I saw:
Ouch. The sad truth comes out, where you least expect it.
My profile on gizmodo.com... I'll have to see what I can do about this.
Three from the Girl
December 7, 2007
My nearly 7-year-old son is an inveterate wiseass ('Gee, wonder where he gets it?' is what everyone says to that... yeah, same to you, bub), but my 4.5 daughter is starting to come into her own. She's getting speech tutoring, so her pronunciation is finally starting to befit her age--and between her brother's tutelage and the assorted sordid influences of three full half-days of preschool, she's definitely building up a good store of age-inappropriate phrases. Here's a little trio from the last few days:
GIRL: Daddy, what's your name?
GIRL: What color is the sky?
GIRL: What's the opposite of down?
GIRL: Matt blew up! (maniacal giggling)
GIRL: Daddy, you know what I'm getting you for your birthday?
GIRL: A pootie machine.
ME: A what!
GIRL: A pootie machine. So when you get in it, you'll have a pootie instead of a penis!
GIRL: (while brushing teeth, knocks basket off the counter to the floor) F**K!
ME: What did you just say?
GIRL: (looking up, smiling beatifically) F**k.
ME: Um... now you know you're not supposed to say, ahem, that word.
GIRL: I know. I sorry. (maniacal giggling)
ME: (trying not to giggle) Well, OK. As long as you know.
What can I say? You reap what you sow, great blurter of profanity that I am. Try as I might, I let 'em slip from time to time, so I at least attempt to make them learning opportunities. Kids, there are words or jokes that are considered rude, so don't say them... and especially don't say them outside the house. I guess I figure you give them a little knowledge so things don't seem so mysterious and powerful--at least that's how I rationalize my bad habits. Though, sometimes, I do say things deliberately that, in retrospect, were probably lapses of judgement. Recent case in point with the boy: in trying to get him to remember the initial vowel shift when reading the words "woman" and "women"...
ME: Just remember this little song, son:
I love to go swimmin'
With bow-legged women
And swim between their legs!
Swim between their legs!
Oh! Swim between their legs!
I expect a call from the principal over that one at some point. Sowin' and reapin', I s'pose.