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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Belief In More Than Santa

We were on our way to church when Parker asked us (and the entire van) if Santa was real.
I may be alone on this, but on the day he was born, I voiced this as one of the moments I was dreading most. I am still recovering from when I was nine and cornered my mom demanding the truth. She thought she would deliver the bundle package and include the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy in the discussion for good measure. My world changed. Being the youngest, I felt like a fool and that I had been lied to by everyone who I cared most about.
I didn't want Parker to feel this way and he was becoming more and more articulate in his accusations. Later that night, Don and I agreed it was time we told him the truth. I did online research. I came across a cute letter that a mom had written to her daughter which explained that Santa is real, but only in spirit and that parents help him spread his cheer by delivering his gifts. In the end it congratulated the girl for being part of a special club to extend Christmas cheer.
It seemed perfect, so I copied it and added a few threats to make it applicable to our family. Bold type which said, "You must never tell your brothers this secret or the Christmas spirit will be lost."
That might have been a bit much.
The opportune moment presented itself as two of his younger brothers were upstairs playing and the other was downstairs.
I told him I needed to see him in our bedroom to put the acid on his foot. He has a persistent wart he has eagerly declared war on. Don followed with the letter. As I put the medicine on his heel, Don started reading. I couldn't look at Parker. Once I did glance up, I saw confusion on his face. I instantly regretted opening this topic.
Finally when he did speak, he was argumentative. Years and years of convincing had apparently been successful and he was not only defending his Santa, he was angry that we would slander his name. He hopped around on one foot and told us we were wrong and that he had proof, reciting all the evidence (we had left) that he had accumulated to defend his argument. In the past few years, we have gone a bit over the top in an exaggerated attempt to keep their belief in Santa alive. I'm sure inflicting physical pain along with his emotional pain wasn't my best choice. And I'm also now wondering why we worked so hard to protect him from the truth.
I was sliding down a slippery slope and the next thing out of his mouth was, "Whoever wrote this letter sucks!" I told him I did, and he just stared at me. I got his drift.
Don took this opportunity to leave. Once the door was shut Parker crumpled into a ball and sobbed. I now know more then ever that he is truly my son. I felt his pain. He is our oldest and takes his role seriously, he feels that he needs to be strong and never cries, but right now, you wouldn't know it because he was crying so loudly.
I felt a bit of his innocence drift away. This is on the heels of one of our nations worst shootings. I have been an emotional wreck. The magnitude of what has happened and the reality of it has rocked the foundation of our nation and certainly my faith in humanity.
Between sobs, Parker asked me if God was real. I said yes, but I'm reluctant to say, with a little hesitation. He asked if Jesus was real. I said yes.

"But you just told me Santa wasn't real and I can't see him. I can't see Jesus or God, so they must not be real either."
I explained that in this case, just because you can't see something doesn't mean you stop believing in it. When you stop believing, you begin to lose faith -- and sometimes faith is all we have.
This conversation had gone much deeper than I was expecting. After a brief pause he asked if what happened to the kids in Connecticut was because they stopped believing.
There it was.
This wasn't just about learning the truth about Santa, it was learning the unspeakable truth about the harshness of life, something I couldn't protect him from. He had learned about the shootings when he came downstairs late Friday night and witnessed his parents crying while watching the evening news.
We were honest, but vague and it seemed that he handled the news well. A few days had gone by and it occurred to him that one of his younger brothers is the same age as the kids that were killed. In his young impressionable mind, he worried that if he stopped believing, it could happen to us.
At this point, I started to cry, too. For a few minutes we just laid there. I remembered how only nine years ago in this very same bed I would lie next to him and stare at his little face for hours and pinch myself that I was so blessed to have him in my life. And after the events on Friday to still have him in my life.
I told him that God was too good. He believes in us even when we fail to believe in him. I told him he was safe, in an effort to believe it myself.
He cuddled up next to me and asked if he could still believe in Santa. Whether or not he does, it is a metaphor for believing in goodness he can't see and an attempt to remain innocent in a world that right now feels anything but. I squeezed him a little tighter.
When I was nine, I had felt my reality changed, but as I look at Parker at the same age, a haunting reality exists which includes innocent lives being taken. He is empathetic to his colleagues of his generation. Our world has changed. When I questioned humanity, I didn't realize that I was jeopardizing my own faith. The answer was looking at me with watery eyes. I have infinite belief in my son and the goodness in children who will have grown tired of violence and who will move toward peace as the only option to restore faith in our world. How can I question humanity when we look into the eyes of our kids.
Just like Parker, I will choose to still believe. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Lifetime Movie

Lifetime was put on this planet for it's holiday movies. With creative titles such as Christmas Eve, Eve was the young ingenue's name, (of course). Or, It's a Wonderful Lifetime.  Despite my efforts, I find it impossible to turn away.  Can my fascination with these movies be traced to a deep hope that they are based on a true story?
Most Lifetime movies have one woman who is an ad executive or a party planner and is intimidated by her high power female boss. In order to make a successful movie, there must be at least 2 very attractive men who the woman can't decide between.  Acute dog is a must.
As well as a fall on the ice, which results in a coma where eventually she will wake up and realize it was all a dream.
What does this say about American Women? That we all strive for a job in the middle (at best) of the pay scale, we can't run in heels, and we hope a modelesque man will rescue us from it all? Ok, Guilty as charged.
Why isn't my life made into a Lifetime holiday movie? My name does, after all, mean Christmas.
It could start off with my husband and I discovering that it is Dec. 1 and we haven't been shopping for anyone, so we drop the boys off at Grandmas and head to Toys R Us. There, we are stuffed in an overcrowded, overheated fire hole arguing over how many presents Santa brings vs. Mommy and Daddy. After an eternity, we have gone way over our budget and go home to wrap gifts from Santa and sign his name with our left hands.  All in an effort to suspend the belief that we would allow an old fat stranger into our house while we slept. Have they not noticed how many times I lock the doors and set our security alarm at night? I won't even mention how many times I have woken up in a panic because we have forgotten to move Henry, our damn elf on the God damn shelf. Excuse my cursing, but last night was one of those nights and I am tired.
The next morning wasn't much better.  It came as a shock to me that it snowed, despite numerous posts by friends, and the weather channel. But when I needed to get the boys in their boots I had to dig in an area of the basement that I would rather not set foot in. I found what I could and managed to convince the boys that the only reason their boots were tight was because they hadn't worn them in a while.  I sent them all to the garage and gathered my coat, coffee and keys. I was in the house long enough to witness our dog throw up, and now I know where all of our missing socks have gone. I picked up the regurgitated sock and threw it outside, with every intention to deal with it later.   By the time I got into the van they were laughing hysterically at a phrase they had made up. In the time it took me to get out the door they had said "Big Fluffy Donkey Dick" what I would guess, 400 times.  I really don't know and don't want to know, if they know what a dick is, and I waited until we were 1 minute from school to tell them to never ever repeat that at school or our elf will tell Santa.  The first thing Jack said to his teacher as she got him out of the van was, you guessed it, "Big Fluffy Donkey Dick". She looked much less alarmed than I would have expected. Next, I was on my way to drop off Oscar at his school.  He is not the most articulate 2 year old, but you wouldn't have known that by how clear he said "Big Fluffy Donkey Dick". Just prior to getting out of the car I realized that I had put all of his winter gear on, hat, gloves, heavy coat, and I had completely forgotten socks and shoes.  Barefoot in the middle of winter in the Midwest. Now that I think of it, that might have been the sock the dog puked up.  Thankfully they had an extra pair of socks at school and they don't ask questions.
Now that is the nitty-gritty stuff that would give actual life to Lifetime. 

That evening was the holiday party where instead of a cute designer mini dress (no Lifetime movie is complete without one), I wore a sparkly sweater that I found on sale at Forever 21. Admittedly, I have NO business shopping there.  I was really enjoying myself at the party until my boss showed up.  He made a bee line to me and seamlessly continued a conversation we were having at the office 4 hours prior.  Except, by this time I had consumed at least 3 vodka tonics and my classy filter quits at 5 o'clock, resulting in several F-bomb drops and me telling him what I really thought about gun control.  Note:  The topic had nothing to do with gun control.

To be honest, I find the holidays kind of sad. I love the songs, the decorations, friends and family, but somehow there is a undercurrent of nostalgia that gets swept further away as every year passes.

By the time our holiday party was winding down and I had graduated to Sangria,  I was approached by a decent looking man. (Remember, no movie is complete without at least 2.)  He told me that he had been wanting to talk to me all night. I had met him casually before, but I couldn't' have told you his name (thanks to the moonshine, I still can't).  He told me that our boys walk past his house all the time and wanted to tell me a story.  Oh no....I almost blurted out "Big Fluffy Donkey Dick" just so I could say it before him. Thankfully I didn't, he went on to say that they were two of the most polite boys he had met. Not only that, the oldest one looks out for the younger one when they cross the street. He went on to tell me at least 3 or 4 stories of how the boys have entertained their  toddler daughter, warned them about their backyard gate being open, or offered to help carry in groceries.  With each story I found the tears building and building and I was fighting back the urge to creep into the ugly pride cry.
As a parent, you don't get a performance review. You are your own boss, and this is scary when young lives are on the line.  After the morning I had had, I am pretty sure Parenting magazine won't be asking me for a cover shoot.
But to hear this, from a neighbor I hardly know was enough to give me the confidence that I'm not doing such a bad job. Even more than anything it gave me the confidence and enormous pride that despite what happens at home on any given morning, the boys behave like little gentleman even when they know that Henry the elf, or I can't see them.
I don't expect a call from a Lifetime movie director either, but if they would just take a chance, it may turn out as the best lifetime movie ever made, that is unless this is a dream and I'm in a coma, if that is the case, please don't ever wake me.