And no, I'm not talking about keeping up with my blog, though that seems to be a losing battle too. How is it possible that it's been almost two months since I've updated, and that I still have a ton of old posts that I need to post, especially from my Pin A Week projects? (Which I did do, I just haven't had time to post!) *sigh* I need to start making time for myself to blog at least once a week. I would like to do it more. I always seem to put making me time on a list, but it usually falls somewhere near the bottom and so gets overlooked. I promise I am going to do better. For the love of goodness, I need to blog. It relaxes me.
I digress. The losing battle I am talking about tonight is the Santa Battle, though I am trying hard to keep the good fight going on our side. You see, we are those parents. The ones who decided years ago, when our oldest son was still growing in my tummy, that we were not going to do Santa the "traditional" way. We always wanted our children to know and be thankful for where their presents came from. To appreciate the thought and effort that went into the gifts sent by grandparents, uncles, aunts, great-grandparents and what their Daddy and I picked out for them. We didn't want them thinking that some mythical fat elf was bringing them toys from the North Pole based on their level of good behavior that year.
We also wanted them to understand the true reason behind the season. Not only about the birth of our Lord and Savior, though that is certainly the most important part of it, but the spirit of giving and love and the joy and blessing it is to do for others instead of just for yourself. So, in addition to teaching them about the birth of Jesus and the religious aspects of the holiday, we also have told our oldest about St. Nicholas. The real St. Nicholas and how the stories of his generosity and good will, especially towards children, have shaped and morphed into the beautiful story that is Santa Clause today. We have explained to him how it is fun to pretend, and it makes parts of the season seem more magical. We have also explained to him that many children truly, truly believe, and that it is important that we don't take that magic away from him. He is very good about keeping our "special secret" and goes right along when any of his little friends talk about Santa, usually giving me a big grin from across the room like we are sharing our own secret, which makes it more magical to me in a way.
As he has gotten older, it has become a harder tight rope to walk. You see, Santa is so ingrained in everything Christmas, that it is almost impossible for children not to hear of him. It was never our intention to completely eliminate Santa from the Christmas traditions we enjoy as a family anyways. The boys have always had their picture taken with Santa, though we have always explained that it was a person who enjoyed dressing up and pretending to be Santa, just like he likes to dress up and pretend to be a firefighter, Spider Man, or Darth Vader. We read a new copy of The Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve, which of course is entirely about Santa Clause, but we also read the story of the first Christmas and the birth of Jesus and talk about it with him at length as the season unfolds around us. It's a balancing act that, until very recently, has been working very well.
It still isn't so much that it isn't working, but that there are certain traditions that I find I would love to share and that I think they, especially our oldest, would really enjoy, but that make me worry that we'll somehow be sending him mixed signals. For example, the Elf On The Shelf that several of my friends have been doing with their littles for years. Taking away the fact that I think the little Elf looks just a little creepy, I think that there is the potential to have a lot of fun with it. I know that it would delight Parker to wake up every morning and search the house for what mischief our Elf had been in the night before. But isn't that going directly against our wish that he not think some fat, jolly elf is watching him and judging his behavior to decide how many presents he deserves? If we don't do stuff like that, will they be missing out on important parts of their childhood?
It's been an issue that, early as we are into the season, has already given me much pause this year. I have started to realize recently that my worry that he might lose sight of what is really important might be making it harder for me just to sit back and enjoy the magic of his imagination. I don't want to brag, but I have a pretty bright kid, and I think I have been severely underestimating his intelligence in this aspect of our lives. When he dresses up as Darth Vader, part of him very much believes that he is Darth Vader, but he also knows deep down that he isn't. I think the same can be said about these kinds of things. Does he know that Santa isn't eating the cookies and milk we leave out? Yes, he does. But it's also fun to pretend. Will he believe that a little toy elf is really dancing around the house at night while we sleep causing mischief? Probably not, but I think he'll have a fun time pretending he is. We balance precariously on the thin line between not wanting to take away the magic but still wanting him to keep a firm handle on what is truly important about the season, and I don't think the whole thing is as complicated as I have been making it out in my head. He doesn't have to truly believe that these things are 100% real to have fun pretending, and I don't have to compromise our desires as parents in order to give him (and his brother and our future children) traditions and memories that he will hold with him for years to come.
I personally remember setting out milk and cookies (and carrots for the reindeer) well into my teens, far past the time I believed, but because doing it still kept some of that magic alive that we all need so much of in our lives. (I also remember my brother being teased sometime in first grade because he did truly believe, and I had to be the one that sat him down and told him the horrible truth...which might be why I am so conflicted in this particular subject in the first place.)
So, we will continue to go see Santa at the mall, to put out cookies and milk, and to read The Night Before Christmas as we snuggle together in our brand new jammies on Christmas Eve night. We will also continue to talk to the boys about Jesus and his love for us and the joyous occasion of his birth, and about the real St. Nicholas and how he taught about being generous of heart. The boys will not have gifts under the tree from Santa, but rather from the people in their lives who love and care from them most. We will also start a new tradition this year. Creepy little face aside, Michael and I stopped by the book store tonight on our date night to pick out our own little Elf On The Shelf. He came home with us and is currently awaiting his naming, which will probably happen tomorrow. (I might have another battle on my hands entirely in order to keep him from being named Darth or Castle Crasher, but that's another story.)
Yes, I find him creepy (Though I wish my sister, who is terrified of dolls, was here right now. I would have so much fun with that!), but the point is that I think the boys will get a kick out of him. (And I am having a lot of fun planing out his month of mischief, I have to admit.) He isn't so much going to be reporting to Santa as he is going to be helping us get the house read for Christmas and our celebration of Jesus's birth. It's all about balance, and why I am sure that I've put way too much thought into this, at least no one can accuse me of doing anything on a whim.
This could be a fun blog series. The Adventures of ________ the Elf. Hmmmm. There is potential there.