Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'd Like to Say Yes, But It's Not Really Up to Me

As Santa is making his list and checking it twice, I'm not sure which list I'm going to be on. I mean, I try to lead a good life. I'm a nice person, I let old people cut in front of me in the grocery store, I obey traffic laws and never flip off even the most obnoxious drivers (and I'm from LA, home of the freeway shootings of the mid-80s). But this morning, I told a lie, I committed forgery, and I may, quite possibly, be guilty of identity theft.

Let me start with this: I am a first-time offender. I don't usually make stuff up and I've never forged anything before (except once, in 1986, on Senior Ditch Day). OK, yes, I may have told the girls that if they didn't stop fighting THIS INSTANT that I'd email Santa and they'd end up with a lump of coal instead of new Barbies. And I've been known to eat a few cookies on Christmas Eve and say that Santa did it. But I'm not afraid to say, "No chips!" instead of lying and saying, "Chips? Nope, all out!" I've never unplugged the TV and told the kids it wasn't working. I have no problem telling my girls that no, I won't drive 2 hours to see the Jonas Brothers in concert - unlike my neighbor, who told HER kids that the Jo Bros had swine flu and cancelled all their concerts, world-wide. (Can you call the Jo Bros "world-wide"? Are French girls lining the streets of Paris shouting, "NEEEK! NEEEK! Je t'aime, NEEEEK!"??)

But since it's Christmas and all, and since it was just the one time, I think I deserve clemency. I may be guilty, but a jury of my peers would never convict me.

So what was it, you ask, that led an otherwise-upstanding citizen into a downward spiral of shame? My oldest daughter, almost 8, asked Santa for an interactive doll. Now, I'm not going to take on the huge toy companies by bad-mouthing their merchandise here, but let's just say that this particular doll is a huge piece of crap. For $60, I'd expect the product to, oh, I don't know, WORK, but I can't find a single positive review. Parents are trashing this doll all over the Internet. One dad, a software engineer, reported, "I tried to install this software using each of the 6 computers in my house, and after 14 hours, I couldn't make the f-in' thing work!" So I am NOT about to spend that kind of money (or 14 hours!) on something that I already know won't work, only to have to take it back anyway ("How did you get the receipt? Santa doesn't give receipts!") and fight the post-Christmas crowds, then stand at Target for an hour while she tries to make up her mind how she'll spend all $60 RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE. No way.

So for the past few weeks, I've tried everything I can to dissuade her from putting the doll on her Santa list. I showed her reviews online. I had her talk to a neighbor who returned the doll 3 times, and never got it to work. I suggested American Girl dolls, Barbie dolls, baby dolls, even an iPod, in the hope of changing her mind. My best friend, Nina, reminded her, "Sometimes Santa doesn't bring you everything on your list. Sometimes he doesn't HAVE all that stuff in his toy shop." Her response? "But I only ask for a few things, so he ALWAYS brings them! And he can get ANYTHING! He even got me the Beauty and the Beast DVD one year while it was still in the Disney VAULT! Remember?" (Oh yeah, I remember. Did he mention that he paid three times the retail price for that DVD? Stupid Santa. Stupid freakin' Disney vault.)

Finally, in desperation, I committed the crime: I faked a letter from the Big Man himself. Yep, I wrote it in red ink, signed his name, even used my North Pole postmark stamp, and snuck out the the mailbox in the pouring rain at 5 AM. "Santa" told her that even though she'd been a very good girl, he wasn't giving anyone that doll due to its flawed materials and poor workmanship, but he'd be sure to leave her something even better on Christmas morning. As she read, I watched, waiting for the tears to start. After all, she'd been talking about this doll since August.

But to my surprise, and to her credit, she just said, "Hey, Mom? Santa says that this doll doesn't work, so he'll give me something else." And then she ran off to play with her sister. No tears, no argument, not even the dreaded, "STINK!" (which is, apparently, the replacement word for my childhood "bummer, dude").

And I was left thinking, really? That's it? One letter from Santa and she's over it? What have I been doing wrong all this time? What had I been trying to tell her? Am I just some moron who doesn't know anything? Does my opinion mean nothing to her?

Well, honestly, pretty much, yeah. I'm just her mom. What the hell do I know? Santa is, after all, the ultimate toy expert. What he says, goes. Which got me thinking: If it was THAT easy, was it such a bad idea to let someone else take the fall?

Slacker Mom Says...sometimes it's OK to take the easy way out. I'm sick of always being the bad guy, of playing the heavy. I'm always the one saying, "No ice cream before dinner, you have to wear your helmet when you ride your bike (even though none of the other neighborhood kids do), and yes, you DO have to ride in a booster seat - in the BACK - until you're bigger." When it comes to health and safety, there's no negotiation. And IF they get an explanation, that's just bonus, because they aren't entitled to anything more than a "because I said so" at this point. But sometimes it's easier - for us AND for them - to let the expert deliver unwelcome news. If the dentist says I have to help with brushing until she's 9, then I'm no longer treating her like a baby; I'm just following the rules. If the teacher tells her to study her math facts every night, I'm no longer trying to ruin her life; it's just part of her homework. Kids like rules; kids adore experts. If it takes a bogus letter from Santa to ease the pain of not getting her precious doll, then I'm OK with that.

And I'm pretty sure Santa'd be OK with that, too.

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