They’re heeeeeeere! The lists that so many parents face with equal parts interest and dread. The letters to Santa. As my seven-year-old son sat down to compose his this year, I watched him struggle with what to write. First, he couldn’t think of anything to ask for and then, after a little consideration, he just started listing things from a toy catalogue that had come in the mail.
That’s when I stepped in.
We had a chat about not abusing the privilege, and to perhaps just ask Santa to surprise him. But I realized the problem really lay with me. I have become so accustomed to doing what is considered traditional, that I never even considered telling him to not bother writing one. Why is that exactly? Why, when so many in this world can’t afford to buy their children the basics, never mind random material junk, do we, as a society, feel the need to perpetuate this ceremony?
Yes, it’s cute. I realize, of course, that in many cases we are simply doing what our parents did for us, or what we think our kids want themselves. Here’s my question though. What if the toys they list aren’t what children actually wanted most? Would we put as much work into making those dreams come true if it took more than money?
IKEA put out a commercial you may have seen asking kids to make two lists: one for things they would want from The Three Kings (the equivalent of Santa Claus), and one full of things they would like from their parents. You can imagine what most of the children asked for: “Play with me more,” “Spend time with me,” “Don’t work so much”.
Now here’s the kicker.
When those same children were told they would have to choose between the lists (I’m going to spoil it for you here), they picked time with their parents. When I posed the question to mine, the answer was offered with the typical forehead crinkle and sideways eyes that translates to “dummy”. Yeah, more time with mom…even when I’m dumb, apparently.
So, do I have any advice to offer here? Honestly, no. We are all victims of the norms set by our society. We all worry what others will think if we ask them to donate to a cause instead of buying another disposable distraction. But I know, in this house, there will be fewer things to unwrap this year, and more time to do a lot of nothing…together.
Merry Christmas, everyone!