I’m not Santa. I have played his representative at this household for …um…thirty years, but I suddenly find that my term is over. All my girls have their own little ones and, hence, have assumed the role of Santa for themselves. And all my girls have their own guys who are responsible for ensuring Christmas happiness and long life for themselves by buying the appropriate girly-pleasing gifts for them.
What does this mean exactly? Well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I spend less on Christmas. Relinquishing the role of Santa corresponds with assuming the role of grandmother–to an ever-increasing number of grandchildren. (Insert smiley face.) Consequently, even though I had said that the grands were getting only one thing, I still zipped over to the Hereford Pharmacy to buy some cute little stuffed critters. I just couldn’t bear to give them each just a plastic thing. For toddlers you get a lot of bang for your buck with plastic toys, but on Christmas Day, when their naps schedules are all messed up, they need something cuddly to calm them down. They do. Trust me. I’m a professional. I’ve been doing this Santa thing a loooooooooong time.
There are categories of Santa presents. If I’ve told you this before, bear with me. It’s just that it’s important. Pathetic little tears on Christmas are at stake. Categories start simple. Little ones don’t even know Christmas is coming, so lights and boxes to play with are enough. Soon, very soon, categories become essential.
- Category 1: Something to do. The gift has to keep them busy for at least part of Christmas Day, and preferably days thereafter. That is why six year old boys are given 1000 piece Lego sets. Anything smaller will be assembled in less than twenty minutes. This could also be called the technology category–Ipads, Ipods, Iphones, I-whatevers. I..I..I… (me…me…me…?)
- Category 2: Something to cuddle. For little ones, it (hopefully) soothes them through a disrupted nap schedule. For older ones, it (hopefully) soothes them through the disappointments of the day. I failed to fill this category the year my oldest stopped believing in Santa. She went to bed in tears because she did not get a teddy bear. How was I supposed to know that it was her test item–the only item on her list that she told no one but Santa? This category continues to be important through the hormonally treacherous teen years.
- Category 3: Something to wear. Initially this is more a gift to the parents than to the child. Once the school years begin, it is really important that the child have something new to wear back to school in January, preferably something that is “cool”-whatever “cool” happens to be that year. Underwear technically fits this category but, for lack of coolness, does not count. Clothing continues to be significant until the child is old enough to work at, say, White House Black Market or Loft. Once that happens, there is no reason to compete with their hefty discount. They should be buying you clothes at that point.
- Category 4: Something to take to bed. This can be combined with Category 2. But usually this involves pjs. You can’t go to bed with a Lego set or a bicycle. The perfect Christmas Day ends with warm snuggly pajamas.
- Category 5: A surprise. It’s no fun to only get what you asked for. That reflects a lack of creativity on Santa’s part. Some children make this a very difficult category to fill by providing extensive wish lists. A certain six year old I know thinks he didn’t miss a thing on his list this year. Responsible adults in the family informed him that even Santa doesn’t have a TV in his room.
So, since I’m no longer Santa, I don’t have to worry about categories. I am not responsible for their Christmas happiness. They are responsible for their own families. And they have men in their lives to fulfill their deepest longings. So all I have to do is get them a present. The happiness of the day does not depend on what I get them. What a relief! If Christmas Day is a gift-giving disaster, it won’t be my fault.
I repeat the mantra to myself: Not the Santa, not the Santa, not the Santa… It’s liberating, like when my daughters got married and I was no longer responsible for them.
Then why the extra trip out to buy stuffed animals? Santa-emeritus just knows.