Santa is coming.
Good old Santa, who can make anything happen. Anything.
Scads of parents across the globe are currently in the throes of panic as they attempt to find a way to make dreams of magic come true. Ways to make sure that children wake on Christmas morning and experience nothing but joy and happiness.
Ways to avoid the dreaded, “Is that it?” moment. The moment when the kids realize that they have reached the bottom of their pile. The moment when they notice that THE ONE THING isn’t there.
If you have kids, you know that given a catalog and a Sharpie, they can produce a Wish List to rival the Yellow Pages. Oh, the circling. The check-marking. The list making.
Many things on that list are just shiny objects that caught their eye. Items that evoke a “I dunno” when you ask what it is and why they want it. But somewhere on that list, or even possibly NOT on that list but buried deep in their tiny minds, is THE ONE THING that they wish for more than any other gift.
And in my mind, the #1 Christmas responsibility of the parent is to discover what that one thing is. And make it happen.
When my little Sprout was 4, round-cheeked and adorable, the one thing was a drum set. I tried to deny the one-thing-ness of the drums. The last thing I wanted, as the parent of a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old was a drum set. Really. Not at all.
And as of a week before Christmas that year, there were no drums in the works.
But then we went to her pre-school Holiday Party and she showed us the wish list she wrote:
And the picture she had drawn of the gift she wanted most of all…drums.
And then the clincher. My child – who never ever ever would even look at a mall Santa – crawled directly onto the lap of the Santa at the party, parked herself there and looked him boldly in the eye and said the fateful words. “Santa, I want drums.”
Guess what her one thing was? Guess who got drums?
Guess who was SO HAPPY that I almost forgot how much I didn’t want drums?
The next year, flush with the success of delivering on the drum dream, I asked my son, Tater, what he wanted most of all for Christmas.
He said, with all of the seriousness that a tiny boy with huge brown eyes can muster – “A rainbow cat.”
“A soft cat that is all of the colors of the rainbow.”
OK, I can do that. A rainbow colored stuffed cat, how hard can that be??
Let me tell you. Hard. As in, impossible.
In 2005 there was not a single multicolored feline to be found anywhere. There was no Etsy (or at least I didn’t know about it.) I searched every store with stuffed animals. I looked everywhere. I asked everyone.
I even considered making one. But the idea of sewing a cat filled me with fear.
The best I could come up with was a white cat with blue stripes. Maybe that was good enough? A cat with colors?
And when he opened it he looked at me and said, “This is nice – but why didn’t Santa bring me a rainbow cat?”
Sigh. Epic fail.
The next year I found a multicolored DOG and tried to position it as a delayed response. “Oh look – Santa brought you a RAINBOW ANIMAL, just like you asked for LAST YEAR.”
In the interest of achieving “pile balance” (another of the key levers of a successful Christmas), I had picked a similar zebra for his sister, and when he saw the dog, his reaction was, “Doesn’t Santa know I love ZEBRAS most of all???” Crap.
Luckily Sprout was in the mood for a rainbow dog. A quick animal swap and another disaster was averted.
I was so traumatized by the Rainbow Cat debacle that the mythology and importance of THE ONE THING looms large in my mind this time of year. I ask the kids to make lists. Sort them. Prioritize them. Edit them.
I put them under hot lights and drip water on their foreheads and I say “What is THE ONE THING that you must have in order for this to be a successful Christmas?”
OK – I don’t do that. But if I did it would make it so much easier, right?
This year I am about 99% sure I know what the ONE THINGS are. But who knows, there could be a surprise entrant thrown into the mix.
Does anyone else share my concern about THE ONE THING? You have to, right? It’s not just me.
Or is it??