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“Can Santa Read?”

Amidst the holiday pressure, my biggest stress is sticking to the list

We’re in it! The holiday hustle and bustle is upon us. A short drive through the main streets of Belmont and San Carlos and all you see is lights -- festive lights that were put up on most homes and lawns over Thanksgiving weekend -- an early start to a crazy season. It’s a beautiful display of Christmas joy threaded with the torrid reminder of all the shopping that needs to be done…

My kids began their coveted Christmas lists the day after Halloween. There were a few ghosts and ghouls that made their lists in keeping with that season, but as the weeks have gone on, they have shortened, cropped and edited their lists to include only the “must haves.” Thanks to numerous toy catalogues and commercials, my kids have thick wish lists. They know what’s being offered and what they hope to acquire. What they haven’t conceptualized is the cost of it all.

But I am trying to do it differently this year. In looking at the magnitude of random toys and leftover or missing pieces dumped at the bottom of toy bins and drawers around my house, this year I have decided to go for three nice gifts for each child and then a bountiful of good stocking stuffers.

I started shopping earlier this year than I do normally. I woke up early on Black Friday and hit Amazon hard. I got some pretty sweet deals on the exact items the kids have their sights on this year. And I have verbalized the “top three items” jargon quite a bit.

But I have to say, I am a bit nervous. When Connor was 4, he accused Santa of being illiterate.

Connor couldn’t read or write then, but he spent hours crafting a lengthy list created from cut out catalogue toy pictures with their written descriptions. So to the best of my elf-like abilities I hit Toys ‘R’ Us and found a few things I believed at that time he’d like more. The items were similar to those items on his list but I added a few additional things that looked cool to me. Big no-no.

But what was I to do? His list was the back and front pages of five 8 1/2 by 11-sized pieces of red and green construction paper taped together in a scroll, mirroring Santa’s Naughty/ Nice list. Each page had at least eight different items, some with their exact description and others with totally random wording. With at nearly 80 items, it was confusing to say the least.

But apparently there was total order for Connor. He knew which ones topped the list and which ones he could live without. And in keeping with the idea that Santa magically knows which child has been naughty and nice at every point of every day throughout the year, Connor thought that if Santa didn’t have his list memorized, he would at least have his homemade list for reference. After all, Santa is magic.

Magic and stupid, apparently.

Come Christmas morning when the presents were ripped open and toys strewn about, Connor asked me and my husband if Santa could read.

“Does Santa know how to read, Mommy?”

“Of course he does,” I said, not knowing where he was going with this question. (Connor was very grateful for the toys he received, but wondered why the ones he spent so much time choosing were nowhere in sight).

“Well, then why didn’t I get the things on my list?”

We were silenced without an answer. We took the whole elf and workshop route –

“Maybe Santa’s elves couldn’t make that toy?” And for the first time we were very happy that our oldest son has a birthday three weeks after Christmas.

“Maybe your going to get some of those toys for your birthday and Santa knew that…” (Back to the magic!)

So this year, I’m feeling good. The list is written in Connor’s own writing and I softly nudged his desires to include three top items I knew I could provide. But that’s not to say that once the list was written, I put it in a safe spot just in case it’s needed for proof later. I have also downplayed the whole Christmas wish list, immediately recycling toy catalogues and fast-forwarding toy commercials.

Santa’s been studying.

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