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Before Christmas I would hear students or other children say, “I want this for Christmas…” After Christmas, especially the first day back to teaching I heard, “I got everything on my list.”

For some reason, this really bothered me. I wonder what we are teaching our children when “Santa Claus” brings them everything? It seems as though Santa, who boasts of maintaining a meticulous list of who is naughty and nice the whole year through, forgets that the young recipients probably were not completely “nice” the entire year, but they still receive everything on their request list. I now see Santa Claus as a great tool of leverage for parents as they near the holidays – “If you misbehave, Santa won’t bring you any presents.” Of course, this allows parents to swiftly shift the responsibility to Santa! Ah ha! What a safety net for parents to bide time until the holidays, bargaining for their children to behave. I doubt there is no parent in America who could not apply for a position in Homeland Security with hostage negotiations because they have been negotiating with their own little terrorists on the home front in Homeland Sanity.

I do not remember Mother ever cheating her role as a parent in this manner, either with me or the siblings. Naturally, my siblings would all agree that I never required these tactics because I was the “perfect child” – and with that, I will not argue. I remind them that I never got pulled over with beer in the car, never had parties while Mother and Dad were on vacation, etc.. With my own sons, they know the consequences are in black and white, and I do not negotiate.

Some where, some how the meaning of Christmas has deteriorated. I have yet to hear a student say, “I gave my parents (or siblings) a gift for Christmas.” It seems to be all about “I want” or “I got.”

When my sister, Dena, turned 18, I decided rather than buying her something I would take her to dinner and to see the musical, Cats. When she graduated from high school I took her to dinner and to see the musical, Les Miserables. I doubt that she can remember what I gave her for Christmas when she was 15 years old or even 25 years old. But I do know she remembers going to see the two musicals.

I decided to do this with my sons and nephews as well. Last year, their Christmas gift was a trip to Orlando, Florida over Spring Break. I also began last year, what I hope will be a tradition of returning to Ohio with my nephews after Christmas. We hit the Air Force Museum, the Newport Aquarium, a movie or two, and anything else we can find for their age level. Although we see them frequently on visits, this gives them time to spend solely with Uncle Darin and the cousins. In a few years I hope my brother’s son, Parker, will be joining us. When my sons and nephews are older, I want them to remember spending time and doing fun things with me rather than forgetting about a set of long lost or out grown toys or gifts. I would rather create moments for them to remember – especially when we shared those moments together.

I guess my Christmas list is to always be able to share time with those I love, creating wonderful memories.

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January 2006
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