The other morning, while we were breakfast-ing and getting ready for school, out of nowhere Nia burst into tears. Between sobs she said she was worried that Santa would discover that she was a horribly naughty child and not bring her any presents.
Misreading her fears (which were very literal, but, alas, I'm always trying to read between the lines -- doh!), I held her close and told her that there was nothing she could ever do that would make me not love her.
This wasn't cutting it. What about Santa and his list of good and bad children?
This struck me momentarily dumb, and then I got mad.
First of all, Joe and I never told Nia about Santa. She picked up on him from the environment -- cultural and advertising-based -- and as she asked about him over the years, I explained that he is (spoiler alert!) something that some children and grown ups like to pretend at Christmas time, as part of the Christmas Magic. I'm no grinch. I love magic and sparkle and wonder, but I'm not keen on fooling kids either only to have them be brokenhearted and feel duped later. So I've always asked her what she would like to do in our family: to Santa or not to Santa?
So it was her idea to believe in Santa. (He fills the stockings. And in our house, he simply walks in the front door. The guys around town dressed as Santa? Simply helping out.)
Something else we never told Nia: that children are either Good or Bad. Again, this was something she picked up on (possibly by all the random people who ask kids if they've been good this year --! Come to think of it, this is a lot like strangers who used to ask me if my baby was good -- was she a good sleeper? Was she a good eater?).
So the morning that I held my daughter in my arms, I wiped her tears and assured her that Santa was not going to find out she was a bad kid -- because there is no such thing. I also explained what I believe is the true meaning of Christmas: that we (and Santa) give gifts to our loved ones not because they've earned them, but because it makes us happy to give them. Because some people need things more than we do. Because it is better to be generous and caring than to be classically "good" (read: obedient, quiet, compliant).
Of course, Nia asked how Santa would know our house rules (that she gets presents on Christmas morning no matter what), and I quickly said because I told him (let's not forget who's in charge here, Big Man!). I called him up and let him know that on no uncertain terms would he be putting my kid on the Naughty list -- and that questioning authority, figuring out her likes and dislikes, not being perfect at everything she tries, occasionally getting mad, does not in any way make her Bad.
On the contrary, she's doing everything right to grow up to be a person of character and integrity. That's what I call Good.
We recently had the opportunity to be generous to some strangers -- after one was generous to us. I posted this on Facebook the morning after:
And what about the peppermint bark? Oh yeah. The whole reason I sat down to write a post this morning. (Sheesh!) Well, this is our third year making and giving away Christmas candy. I posted the recipe link here.
It is pretty amazing. You kind of have to set aside a whole afternoon to do it, and if you try to multi-task too much, it can go bad, but if you just devote yourself to the project, it turns out beautiful and yummy and makes a great gift for teachers, friends, and neighbors, not to mention the folks that do stuff for us all the time, like the woman who delivers the mail, or the man who dry cleans our work suits.
Cleaning out the bowl of white chocolate...
Ready to give...