It’s time to have a serious talk with the boy. I sit him down.
“Listen, Declan,” I say. “Santa’s not getting you everything on this list.”
“Yes, he will.” It’s a hefty list.
“No, he won’t.” I say.
“How do you know? You’re not Santa.” It’s true. I’m not.
“I know because Santa has to make sure every boy and girl gets something. The elves are busy with everyone’s lists, not just yours.”
“That’s a lie,” he says. “Santa’s magic and so are the elves. They can give everyone everything.” It’s hard to defeat this logic.
I have to stay on guard. This isn’t a normal kid. It’s the kid who looked over my shoulder at a friend’s product design and said, “These are pretty. We should sell them and split the money.” Somewhere between industrial spy and Trump-style negotiator, this kid won’t be fooled–elves are indeed magic.
“Yes, they are, but they also want to teach you important lessons. They want you to be grateful,” I say. Beat that one, kid! “They realize if you always get what you want you won’t appreciate things or work hard to earn what’s important to you. Santa doesn’t just give you things, he wants you to have gratitude and a good heart.”
“Santa’s about toys, God’s about hearts,” he says.
Bell rings. Round two.
“Santa and God work together,” I respond. This is going to be a tough “W.” I need to rack up enough points to come close to a tie.
“Santa got me everything on my list last year.”
“I don’t think that’s true.” What is true is for every year or two on this planet, kids’ lists double. It’s Moore’s Law of Christmas mixed with the glamor of Madison 5th Avenue.
I already know the elves aren’t bringing some of these large items–even if “all his friends” play, have, or do them. And Santa can’t bring a cat. I want Christmas to be about love and gratitude, not inventorying things we don’t get.
“Mom?” he asks, “Why doesn’t Santa go to poor people?”
Bell rings. Round three.
He’s caught me completely off guard. I stop just a minute. This is a moment of truth. If Santa is magic, every kid would get things. Not every kid does. Declan is right.
I tell him a story of the Christmas of the Broken Radio.
“I got a little radio because I loved music.” I later discovered it was a garage sale find one year my parents struggled. “It was broken. It only got one station–the Spanish station.” I imagine my mom’s feelings that Christmas morning now that I’m an adult. I also remember I loved that radio even though it didn’t work properly and it helped give me a love of languages.
I also got a few Barbies from people who helped out. I didn’t like dolls–they didn’t know. I loved the broken radio, but I didn’t like Barbie.
“When someone gives you something you don’t like, you say thank you and feel gratitude, because they were thinking of you with love.” I remember getting that lesson drilled in–it was about the love of the giver, not the gift. That lesson was a better gift than any wrapped box.
It backfired a bit later on. I was a pack rat, unable to give away things that didn’t serve me because I thought people would feel upset.
It was time to learn another lesson–letting go opens our soul to new things. We give the old things to people who need to be blessed by them, passing on the love, thoughtfulness and generosity of the original giver, too.
Lessons are like things–when an old one becomes clutter, pass it along. Make room for the new.
I’m not sure how to answer Declan about Santa and the poor.
“People struggle every day,” I say. “Santa wants to give us chances to help, too. People have helped me, and I want us to help other people,” I tell him. “When you see someone in need–any day of the year–and you help, you show your goodness. Santa’s giving you a bigger gift when he lets you help others.
That’s the truth. Declan pauses. He doesn’t have an argument.
He doesn’t tell me Santa’s about gifts and God’s about hearts again.
“I hope everyone gets all the toys on their list,” he says. I smile and declare this contest over. I think I hear the bell ending the final round. “And me, too.”
I’m still smiling, but it appears we have a way to go.
We’ll save round five for next year. Right now, we’ll sign some candy canes and cards for his friends and be grateful for each other.