Monday, December 28, 2015

A Tale of Two Christmas Lists

So, I have two rotten children at home, one of whom is a fervent believer in Santa, and the other who is not so much anymore. The latter, Brenna, came to her conclusion two years ago, at which point she asked us is she could stuff her brother's stocking. We assented, and she had such a great time that she has now done it three years running. The former, Jake, was apparently having his doubts this year, which I will detail in the second part of this post.

I make no moral equivalence between the two lists my children presented this year: One is written in the spirit of knowledge, the other in the spirit of faith. I cherish them both in different ways. Brenna's is, as expected, a masterpiece of evil. Jake's is a masterpiece of innocence.

In the first part, however, I will share Brenna's Christmas list, which was, like last year, a PowerPoint presentation. If you haven't seen it, you may view it at this link. The difference is, this year it was a single presentation and I didn't have to edit them or organize them in n the slightest. I just put a few notes after some of the pictures.

The genius of her evil grows.

So, here we go...

(I have a few words about this later)
(Maybe the dumbest thing I've ever seen: 
Creatures shaped like things you shop for.
Except small. And cute, apparently.)

  (Note: I combined the phone case and the Legos by
buying a case with a Lego base on it)

(This was apparently a big thing with kids this year:
We're raising a nation of germophobes.)
 (She got a candle stand with electric candles)

(And now, may the evil commence...)

 (This is what Al Gore's nightmares look like.)

(Good thing, or I might get confused)
 (Note: This is actually pretty good advice. 
At my advanced age I have forgotten
my card once or thrice.)


(This is the Ghost of Foo-Foo)

Thus endeth the smart-aleck-ry. (I'm pretty sure that's not a word, but it is now. Mwa-ha-ha!)

So, what are we to learn from this entertaining, if lengthy presentation? Beyond that I'm doomed when she becomes a teenager? 

I'm glad you asked.

Having exhausted her belief in Santa Claus and the idea of the free lunch, where gifts magically appear simply because we follow the mystical injunction to "be good," she has proceeded to become a proto-capitalist. She is unafraid to sing for her supper: She put out an entertaining product (on spec!) that was designed to get her what she wanted. 

And if you noticed, she asked for, as she told me later, "One big thing and mostly a bunch of Five Below stuff," at which store I actually bought the bulk of her presents. This is a good way to get what you're after: ask for the moon, and also a bunch of trinkets. This says to me: "I only really want this one thing. Everything else is just there to fill out the list." 

Which is the exact message she was trying to get across.

Now, I did not get her the FitBit Flex. I got the Charge, which is the nest step up. Unfortunately, it did not come in before Christmas. (I had some other big stuff that she didn't know about, and I told her it was coming, so no harm done for her.) 

This is the "Customer Service" part of the post.

I ordered the FitBit from Groupon, a company with whom I had done business before, and with whose products I had been well pleased. 

I ordered it well before the holiday (On the 7th, with delivery expected no later than the 21st.) I paid online, so there was no question that the payment was good.

On the 19th, the FitBit had not yet arrived, though an item I had ordered at the same time had. I went online to see what was up. The website had tracking information that said my order was received on the 7th, processed on the 8th and ready for pickup by FedEx on the 9th. 

And that was where it stopped. 

After three days of "investigation," I got an email that basically said, "We don't know where the item is or what happened. Why don't you try buying one somewhere else." And yes, it actually said that.

I fired back an angry email, saying they should pull another one off the shelf and ship it to me overnight, at no additional cost, and I got a form letter back. 

The package was picked up later that day with delivery expected next week.

The lesson of the story here is: If you have a service problem, go above and beyond to fix it, because it will end up being spread around the internet if you don't.

Anyway, on to the second part of the story: Jake's Christmas list. This one is, to me, even more impressive than Brenna's, and I mean no disrespect whatsoever to her.

Jake is my little Jesus boy: He loves going to church, going to his Bible Club, and I swear the things he says have me convinced that God talks to him directly. He had great faith and takes it very seriously for such a young boy,

This year, however, we suspect that the whole Santa thing was on his mind and that he was testing the water to see whether the fat guy is real or not. 

This year, he actually sent out three lists. The first one he wrote up, sealed in an envelope and brought to our mailbox, putting the flag up so the delivery person would know it was to go. The next morning, he went out to make sure it was there and unopened before he got on the bus to school. 

Fortunately, the mail doesn't come until the afternoon, so we were able to swipe the letter after he left.

Brenna had printed up forms with space for favorite colors, favorite this, favorite that, and Jake had filled one out. One space said "What I want for Christmas." He put "Lots of Gold. Lots of Diamonds. Lots of Emeralds." The next space said, "What I want most." His response:" Lots of money to help  my family."

Yeah, I know.

So, the second letter he sent out was also intercepted. It requested, simply, "World Peace."

He didn't want to make this easy on us.  The final letter was simply for a new video game (Minecraft for the WiiU), but that came so late that the shopping had already been done and he had to settle for what he got.

What were we to do?

Well, a little background: my mom has been putting money away for the kids since they were born, for when they go to college, or when they move out on their own, so they won't be flat broke when they do. And my brother runs a consignment business in his spare time to help save money for the coming Zombie Apocalypse. 

So, instead of buying Jake bonds this year, my mom bought a investment grade gold coin from my brother that he didn't take his commission on. And I wrote a Letter from Santa that I had a friend hand copy so it was legible and "felt" authentic.

In it, I explained that working to take care of their family is part of a parent's job, and one that is very important.  I explained that, because people have the agency to do good or to do bad, that some will choose to do bad (But no gifts from Santa for them!), so world peace wasn't something that could be given.

But, Santa said, sometimes he is able to make an exception, and if Jake looked in the right place he might find something to help his parents. 

Well, he found the gold coin (with an appraisal slip (about $400)) looked at it, and handed it to his mother. With a huge smile on his face, he said, "This is for you." And jumped into her arms.

So, for maybe one more year, he will be a believer in Santa Claus.

The spirit of Santa Claus, the whole reason that makes the deception worthwhile, is that not only does Santa Claus give without regard for himself, but when the child finds out the truth, he realizes that his parents were giving him the best presents and were giving the credit to someone else. This is the true essence of Christmas and what true Christlike behavior consists of.

But what he doesn't know is this: For this year, Jake was Santa Claus to his parents. His first impulse was to ask for something to help someone else. And that is an admirable quality in one so young.

So, I have two kids, one on either side of the Santa Gap, and each showing what I feel to be admirable qualities in the things they go about their Christmas business. Brenna shows initiative and drive, and Jake displays selflessness and charity.

It's been a hard year, but I love my kids so much.


  1. That made me cry, in a good way :) Thanks for sharing! You are doing a good job as a parent and I hope things work out well in the Santa Belief Dept. :)

  2. Thank you! I'm glad I could make you feel good. Sometimes I feel like I'm shouting into the void. And thank you for the compliment. It means a lot, truly!