Santa told Declan he’d been both good and bad, that he was right smack in the middle of the lists–not yet on the “Naughty” or “Nice” lists…but there was still time to be good.
It’s Christmas Eve. Declan’s standing in front of me at the cusp of the “No way, buddy, you have to go back to bed” hour. “It’s 5:30. Too early! Go back to bed.” Dumb o’clock in the morning is my time for peace and solitude.
“But it’s vacation.”
“That’s why you have to sleep in. Tonight’s a ‘stay up late’ night.” Declan the Doorway Silhouette creeps in, moves the MacBook, and steals my lap. We’re supposed to have a gentleman-mom agreement. I get up early to write. Nobody bothers me. In principle.
In practice, I’m the only one who’s signed on to this agreement.
“Merry Christmas, Mommy,” he gives me the biggest hug.
“Merry Christmas, Declan.” I enjoy the hug. Everyone says hugs won’t last forever–before I know he’ll be gone, and I’ll be wishing for another hug. I suppose it’s true. I’ve read “The Giving Tree.” It makes me cry every time.
But today, I don’t want to cry, I want to write. I tell Declan to go back to sleep until the right time. Santa’s watching.
A tear is in his eye. “Mommy?”
“Will Santa come?”
“Of course he will. But it’s a long day today. You have to sleep so you can be good.”
“I’ve been a bad boy.” Santa sent Declan a video email cautioning him to be good and now, on Christmas Eve, he’s a basket of nerves.
Adults get stressed when work doesn’t go well, when we juggle bills, when we’re sick, when the IRS sends a letter, when we’re not sure about the future, when the world sits on our shoulders. If you measure the stress of a seven-year old when Santa calls him out on bad behavior, the size of the world’s exactly the same.
All we want in life is to know we’re doing a good job and someone’s standing behind us when times get rough…that there’s hope for us all..whether we’re seven or forty-three. It makes no difference.
“Listen to me,” I say. “You are a very good boy.”
“But remember…the bus…and the toilet paper…” Surely those wouldn’t be enough to steer Santa away?
“Look how big you’re getting,” I say. “You’re trying very hard. You’re reading all the time, you’re making good decisions. You’re a wonderful artist. You help Mommy. You’re working hard not to throw fits.” Santa asked Declan to try very hard to control his temper. “You’re getting to be a big boy, and you’re getting better all the time.”
He isn’t convinced. He had a chair named after him in the principal’s office, and sits in “bus jail” next to the monitor every day. He wants a written guarantee.
“All Santa and Mommy ask,” I say, “Is that you’re good in your heart. When you want to misbehave, look into your heart and try your very best to be good. Then, Santa–and Mom–are happy…And we always love you…”
“Even when I’m not good?”
“Every single moment.”
He sits on my lap a while longer. We cuddle. I tell him to go back to bed. “Can I play in my room? Will Santa be mad?”
“You can play.”
“Santa will come if I play and don’t sleep now?”
“Yes, Declan, Santa will come.”
“How do you know…” That written guarantee again. I think we all want the written guarantee. Seven’s too young to know life doesn’t come with one. I don’t tell him. He’ll find out the hard way soon enough.
“I just know. I see the good in your heart.” Declan smiles. We check NORAD Santa to make sure St. Nick is on his way. Declan gets to stay up, which is what he wanted all along. I give up–I’ve given birth to an early bird who pushes the limits, just like me.
It’ll be a long day for us, two early birds waiting for Santa, but when the sun rises tomorrow, the miracle of Christmas will be here once more.