This year was Brennan’s first time really getting into the holiday spirit and having somewhat of an understanding about Christmas. I was a good mom this year. I ordered no toys and only clothes for Brennan. After all, there were 6 major gifts that he never opened from Christmas last year. We were late with our Christmas decorations and I wasn’t too concerned. After all, Christmas came by too quickly. So, the week of Christmas, we were buying the tree and decorating it, ordering last minute Christmas gifts and wrapping paper. I was up wrapping gifts late Saturday night because we were going to church in the morning. Lee suggested that I leave some of the gifts unwrapped to differentiate between Santa’s gifts and our gifts.
The next morning, Brennan woke up and we got ready for church. As we were heading out of the house, Brennan spotted his Thomas the Train set under the tree and said, “Look, it’s Thomas! I want to play with my Thomas.” We explained that Thomas would have to wait because we’re on our way to church. Brennan said, “I don’t want to go to church! I want to play with my Thomas!” We calmly responded, “Brennan we need to go to church and thank Jesus for the fact that you even were able to get Thomas.” He screamed, “I don’t want to thank Jesus!”
In true parenting fashion, an ah-ha moment struck me. The true meaning of Christmas needs to start early. I grew up believing in Santa up until the age of 8 when I discovered all of my Christmas loot. My parents didn’t pressure our belief in Santa and after they separated, my mom squashed the myth of the jolly red faced man all together. My mom believed that we were better off knowing that the gifts we got were from her and not based on whether we were good all year. Her response was that if she couldn’t afford to get us something, she didn’t want us to be upset because “Santa” didn’t bring it. I guess I really learned to not expect much from anyone during Christmas because funds were limited. I never really asked for anything special. It wasn’t until I was married that I discovered the true meaning of Christmas.
It was year one of our marriage and it was our first Christmas as a married couple. Lee let me throw a tantrum to get the biggest tree I’d ever seen and have it squeezed into our tiny NYC apartment. It was magnificent! It was also way too big for either of us to just walk through the door. We would have to throw our belongings into the house and run and jump sideways through the door. It was hilarious. I could only decorate the front half of the tree because it was so big. Lee would curse under his breath every time he passed the tree. Christmas morning, I woke up to 14 gifts under the tree, just for me. I was ecstatic. My husband loved me so much and I was being spoiled by his love. It was the best Christmas ever. After I had opened all 14 gifts, I responded, “Is this it?” Those three little words cut like a knife through Lee’s heart. I wasn’t meaning it to be malicious, but in hindsight, I should have known better. Lee’s response was “If I get you nothing for Christmas, you should be happy. Christmas is not about you, it’s about the birth of Christ. Your birthday is about you.” I got it. I finally got it.
So, knowing how selfish I was to the true meaning of Christmas, I decided that I wouldn’t let Brennan fall pray to the same ritual I did. I want him to understand that it is about the birth of Christ and that there are those that are less fortunate than we and we have a responsibility to give back to them. To make him and others see and understand it is by the grace of God that we are not homeless, unemployed or sick. Santa is a great myth, but Jesus is the real reason for the season.
At the end of the night, Lee was getting Brennan ready for bed when he asked him, “Brennan, did Santa bring you everything you wanted for Christmas?” Brennan replied, “No, daddy” Lee asked, “What did Santa not bring you?” Brennan calmly replied, “Candies, daddy! Santa didn’t bring me any candies!”