We had a rough start to Christmas this morning. My parents had helped me wrap my gifts for Ian last night while Santa delivered his under the tree. I felt like the items were on par for previous years. I went to bed optimistic.
Ian had only requested one thing from me - soccer goals. I found some that are pretty cool and I'm hoping it means he can persuade some neighbor kids to the yard to play.
His list for Santa, though, was a bit more outrageous and impractical. It included a Nintendo Switch (which retails for $300), a flat screen TV (he already has a small one in his room), a new computer (his computer works fine), a BMX bike and a track built in the back yard, new headphones (his current ones are fine), and a real horse.
The items he wanted were either duplicates of things he already has (and never uses) or were so outrageously impractical or expensive, Santa couldn't deliver. I just took him on a Caribbean cruise two weeks ago, so I wasn't interested in giving him a ton of high dollar items. And as I perused my Excel sheet of Ian's gifts from previous years, I noted a lot of items he said he wanted and then never actually used. It made me weary.
Santa got him two cool board games (Qwirkle and 7 Wonders Duel), a football, a sling shot, and the third illustrated Harry Potter book. His stocking was also full of neato little things that he'd never even knew existed but are fun.
Ian wanted a BMX bike. When he came downstairs, the first thing he said was, "None of these look big enough to be a BMX bike." As he opened his items from Santa, he noted that none of these things were on his list. My mother offered that her children had said things like that before but ended up really liking the things they got. So maybe Santa knows best. Ian was not persuaded.
Santa had written a letter to Ian about his desire for a horse. I thought it was pretty clever telling him that he could take a lesson at the farm for free and just tell them that Santa had sent him. He read the letter and his face fell.
My mom asked what the letter said. At first Ian said he didn't want to talk about it. Then he said, "It says Santa doesn't care what I asked for." He stomped off to his room with gifts still wrapped under the tree.
I steeled myself and went upstairs. Tears welled up in my eyes as I sat with him. I told him that Santa had talked to me. That he got Ian's letter and he was concerned about some of the things on the list. Santa wanted to get him what he had asked for, but he wasn't sure if Ian really knew the things involved in it all. I told Santa that Ian already had a computer and video game systems. Santa and I agreed that a BMX track in the back yard would make it hard for the dogs to use the space, and for Ian to play catch or soccer or anything else he wanted to do out there.
Santa offered that a horse was something he could maybe find, but he was worried that it would be a burden for me. I told Santa that leaving a horse in our yard would be a disaster. Where would we keep him? What would we feed him? How would we ever go out of town? And what if Ian likes horses for a few weeks or months but decides he would rather skate board. It's a living animal. It's a responsibility. It's not really a good gift from anyone.
I also reminded Ian that while Santa is magic, he's not perfect. No one is. If Santa could give everyone anything they said they wanted, no one would ever be hungry or homeless or sick. You can't tell Santa you want to go to the moon and wake up Christmas morning with two tickets to outer space in your stocking. The man has his limits. We all do.
I also told him that there are three boxes of presents downstairs from him for me and I loved them already, having no idea what's in them. Because gifts are about love. Ian curled up under the covers and said he was sorry. He didn't want to be ungrateful. He just felt like Santa hadn't really read his letter.
"Dude, he totally read your letter. How else would he have told me about the BMX track and the horse? He cares a lot. He wants to give you things that make you happy. And sometimes you don't know what will make you happy. Or sometimes the things that would make you happy can't fit under a tree."
He started crying and blurted out, "I miss Daddy!"
"I miss Daddy too, Stink. It sucks and it's not fair that he can't be here for Christmas. But Santa can't fix that. And I can't fix that either. All we can do is love you super hard."
By some stroke of luck, the last Advent book we read last night was "My Penguin Osbert" about a boy requesting a live penguin from Santa. He realizes that owning a live penguin isn't all he thought it would be and ends up sending a new letter to Santa saying if he wanted to trade that would be ok.
While Ian and I were having a heart to heart upstairs, my folks were downstairs comparing notes on their childhood experiences. Mom asked Daddy if he'd ever had a bad Christmas. He just said, "All of them." Daddy grew up incredibly poor so he learned early not to get his hopes up. Mom recalled getting the same type of elegant movie star doll as her sister requested versus the baby doll she wanted. She cried and cried because she didn't feel heard.
And in a lot of ways, I think Ian felt not heard today. He's not sure what he wants, but he wants someone or something magical to fix the ache he feels. He's learning that we're the only ones who can heal those holes in our own hearts.
Ian rallied and came back downstairs. He was genuinely excited to see me open my gifts. He admitted that he really wanted a sling shot but hadn't put it on his list. I told him Santa pays attention to him all year long and makes notes. Sometimes Santa may know what we need and give that versus what we say we want.
We've unpacked a board game to learn. We watched the rest of "Die Hard". We've tested out the sling shot. Christmas is saved. And we'll look forward to better days ahead.