Which Hat Will Santa Wear?

I love being the parent of a 3 3/4 year old.

Edie is interesting, funny, inquisitive, sensitive, and timid. One of the things that I love most are the questions that she has about the universe, life, and a plethora of other topics.

A few of the questions of late:

Why is the skin on the inside of my hand lighter than the outer side?

Where was I before I was born?

Why doesn’t Rufus have thumbs?

There have also been a lot of questions about Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Santa Claus due to the season, of course. We were reading something about Saint Nick, who she assumed was in fact Santa Claus until she noticed his Bishops mitre. She wanted to know why the different hat. We tried to explain that he was a Bishop and that he and Santa were very similar, etc. She was very concerned with what hat he might wear to her house when he delivers her presents in a few days.

What hat will Santa wear?

This question had my head spinning a bit too as the different layers were pealed back: layers of history, religion, conquering, commercialism, and capitalism that are all mixed together along with individual family traditions to create this experience that we call Christmas. I am the kind of parent that wants to be able to help my child grapple with important questions and also provide some guidance. Having a child often makes us question practices and beliefs or to at least tighten them up a bit so our values are clear and represented.

What hat will Santa wear?

What is the essential message of Christmas? What do I want to get from it (or give to it)? What do I want Edie to get out of it (or give to it?)

I’ve always loved Christmas: the tree, the gifts, the smells, the coziness, the family, the candlelight church services. Many years on Christmas evening I’d end up worked into a panic attack because I was so overstimulated, overwhelmed, and depressed that it was over.

As I’ve aged, I still love Christmas. I love the lights, the gifts, the smells, the coziness, the family, and the church services. Even this year, with my father nearing his death, though it’s been hard, Christmas has helped to soften the blow (and intensify it at the same time).

What is it at it’s essence that makes it so magical? What hat will Santa wear?

For me it’s all about Hope and Radical Love. That is what I want Edie to get and give at Christmas. There is so much to despair about. Even today, millions of dollars were raised by fellow citizens who want to build a wall at our border with Mexico. (Apparently they’ve never read any of the Gospels). Our environment and planet are in major trouble and Edie will be around to bear the brunt of that future. My dog is getting old. My dad is so sick. One of my best friend’s mom’s cancer is back. There is so much to feel upset, angry, and disgusted about. And some days the hope is illusive. That’s why we need Christmas. We need Christmas to remind us that though it’s so dark, we can hang up lights and burn candles. We can reach out to our neighbors and refugees and love them. It’s simple and sappy but exactly what I need. It’s what we need. It’s what Edie needs.

What hat will Santa wear? I suppose the bishop’s ” hat” would be the most historically accurate. We are Episcopalians after all, and we will read the Christmas story from one the Gospels. When it comes down to it though, this man (historical or not) Jesus, that we celebrate and remember came to the world to stir some shit up: to hang out with outcasts, to despise wealth and excess, to forgive and reconcile, to love and empower. He taught us in spite of it all to have Hope.

What choice do we have? We can choose misery I suppose. That would be easy enough and probably the most logical. However, neither St. Nick or Santa Claus seem to be overly concerned with logic and ease. Giving away wealth and other gifts to children and those in need as Saint Nicholas or flying around the world in a night gifting toys to children everywhere as Santa Claus both require a bit of Hope and Love.

What hat will Santa wear? I suppose it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we have hope, love without fear, challenge institutions and injustices, and keep the light burning in the darkness. It’s what I want Edie to get out of Christmas. It’s what I hope she can give to the world.

What we leave behind.

This one is going to be a bit heavy. I have been listening to Joni Mitchell, it’s Monday, and my dad is dying. He has been for a few years, but is really sick now and I was just texting with him and he “really just wants to make it until Christmas.” He was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis about five years ago and has been steadily declining since. There were several times we thought it was the end but this time it really is. He can’t really do much at all. He gasps for air and is uncomfortable. He texts and listens to music and plans for his cremation and memorial. In the evening, if he is up for it, he gets wheeled to the car and is driven around by his partner to look at Christmas lights.

Edie has only seen my dad twice. That is enough right there to leave me heartbroken and sad. My parents divorced about 14 years ago and I didn’t handle that so well. I was mad at my dad and let that anger eat away and ruin our relationship. Not that it was ever a perfect one, but it definitely had its positives. I have a lot of regret about those missing years and our lack of closeness. Some days it really gets me down.

Edie will not remember my dad. Even now he is mostly known through pictures and texts. When I tell her that he is my dad she laughs nervously as if she doesn’t know what to do with that information. He and I have made peace as much as we can and I’m so thankful for that grace. My dad had a really tough childhood and was emotionally and physically abused in some really awful ways by his parents. When I think of this and consider what a kind and gentle parent he was I’m amazed at his strength and tenacity and love.

I learned a lot from my dad. Sure, smoking cigarettes and flirting are two of those things. Thankfully, I haven’t smoked in 14 years or so and I rarely get the chance to flirt. But, I learned some really important things too. Some of those things helped shape me as a parent and will help Edie as a person too. One way I can remember and honor him is to share with her those things and tell her about my dad and all the things he helped me learn and be.

My dad taught me to love everyone. He didn’t stand for racism and homophobia and indifference or prejudice. He is kind and anti-war and violence. He never owned a gun. He’s never voted Republican.

My dad believed that his daughters and sons were equal in intelligence and ability. My dad loves hanging out with LGBTQ folks. When I came out, all the young gays who were often rejected at home had a warm welcome, a meal, and a place to stay with us. My dad (along with my mom) would even take us all to the gay bar for a drag show.

My dad stood up to institutions like the church and challenged them on institutional biases and prejudice. Eventually the hypocrisy grew too much for him and he left those institutions behind.

My dad taught me to love good music and to sing loudly and enjoy it. Some of my fondest memories are of Simon and Garfunkel being played loudly on the record player as we all sang and danced along. To this day folk music is still the epitome of good music.

My dad loves family. Though his parents were difficult my dad made the effort over and over again to show them love and kindness and forgiveness. My dad always put my sisters and mom and I as first priority. He worked very hard to provide for us, and we wanted for nothing.

My dad loves the ocean and the beach. We didn’t grow up in a coastal state but always vacationed on the shore. He knew how to just sit and listen to the waves or Bob Dylan and chill.

My dad loves Christmas. As his health started really declining almost a month ago, one of the first things he wanted done was to have his tree put up so that he could enjoy it for one last season.

My dad is cool. He has a strut. He is a music snob. He has a wicked and irreverent sense of humor. He is a smart ass. He loves passionately and deeply.

I will miss my dad. I already do. I only hope that I can pass on to Edie some of these great things that he gave to me. I hope that some day, she will have a similar list when she writes about her Papa’s legacy.

Edit: Dad died on February 19th, 2019 at home alone. We are still in the early stages of grief and it can be brutal. He IS missed. Now, to work on my own legacy with more intention and love.

How Not To Be Too Gross At Christmas

Halloween is over and our little Edie’s strawberry costume has been packed away and put in the cellar with the skeleton, witches, ghosts, and other decor.  So now our parental sites seem to automatically turn toward Christmas. This post is not about lamenting the fact that the stores are putting up Holiday items and some even playing music. I guess that’s just to be expected a bit at this point. I mean I have to admit I get a little excited when I start seeing some of it. I do think that this early jump start on Christmas is of course hyper-capitalism inspired  consumerism at it’s worst reminding us to spend spend spend in order to be happy and have the perfect Christmas and perfect life. A trap most of us fall for. Myself included.

Plus, poor Thanksgiving. We really love Thanksgiving in this house. My husband is basically the best non-professional cook ever. This is his favorite day of the year. He creates lists, flow charts, and plans weeks in advance. We enjoy having some of our besties over and eating until it hurts and being lazy for a few days as we begin to ease into winter in New England. And we never eat turkey! We also think gratitude is pretty important. And don’t get me wrong, I have been known to put the lights up the very day after Thanksgiving and even sometimes the live tree, which usually ends up dry as a bone by the second week of Advent and in our yard promptly by December 26th.

What I really want to talk about though is something we were recently asked by a dear friend: How do you avoid going overboard at Christmas? How do you not fall into the trap and buy way too much stuff? How do you keep it real? So, here is a list of ways to do just that. I call it:

THE HOW TO NOT BE TOO GROSS AT CHRISTMAS LIST:

1. Wait for it.

It is easy to fall into the trap of buying early. Edie has had a Crate and Kids catalogue for well over a month that has things circled with the letter “E” written next to them.  I find that the earlier I start, the more I buy, and let’s be honest most of our kids really do not need that much more stuff. This is something I have not always been great at and sometimes am still not. I was raised by very generous people and had very doting maternal grandparents. I never knew what it was like to not get everything on my list and then some. So try and wait until December! Heck, wait until the middle of December. There is something nice about participating in the old tradition of Advent. This is literally a time of waiting. It helps you to slow down and not rush to Christmas until Christmas. Then, you get 12 days of it! Obviously this practice can be applied in a secular way as well. So, wait!! This year we have vowed to wait for our tree until it is a bit closer to the 25th.

2. Be like Santa, make a list. 

I find that when I go to Whole Foods with Edie on a Monday without a list, I spend approximately $8,000. I buy candles, plants, soaps, cut flowers, 8 kinds of crackers and popcicles and many other items I don’t really need. The same is true with Christmas. If you go into it blindly with no real plan you overdo it. Decide how much you can really afford or want to spend then prioritize and stick with it. We like to get Edie one or two big things. This year it’ll be a crib, stroller, and high chair for her baby dolls as this is her favorite thing to do right now: “take care of her girls”, as she calls it, including her well loved-baby named Baby that is now completely legless and still fully loved. Because of this we will also be adding a new baby to her collection. This is the one we are excited to gift her this year from Hazel Village. We are always on the lookout for good dolls of color and there are simply not enough. If you do not know Hazel Village you should check them out as the stuff is amazing. We were introduced to them by our awesome friend and blogger over at Simply On Eden. To round out our list we then find something that keeps her connected to being outside (obsessed with this), something related to art and making things, and several new books.  That’s our list and we are sticking to it (my husband is reading this and will certainly hold me to it).

3. Be Green and Buy Vintage!

I mean Etsy  makes it so easy to buy vintage and handmade things. My search for baby doll furniture has lead me to look there and I will be narrowing it down soon. If you have any recommendations please let me know. For the same price you get something much more sturdy, typically made of  wood and without the packaging, and much better quality. Other things that can be bought second hand include books, board games, and fun stuff like porcelain tea sets and dollhouse furniture. Facebook market place is also a fantastic place to shop locally for used items. For clothing I sometimes use Thredup. They are great for cleaning out the closet as well and send you a big bag to send back to them. You can even get shop credit when they sell your items which means more Edie’s clothes! A great task to take care of right before or after the Holidays.

The last thing I will say is that we have learned over the few years we have been doing this that less is more. Kids really can’t play with more than about 10 toys, in total. We do have more than that still but we are constantly trying to downsize. Toys that are open ended also tend to go over better and provide longer entertainment and inspiration. So, when you get new stuff get rid of the same amount or more! This also helps with clutter and mess.

Edie will be happy to get a new dolly and a few things to go with those dollies. There are lots of kids that have far less. This is an important lesson to start teaching at a young age as well in an age appropriate way. This year we hope to give back as a family and serve a meal here or there to those in need. We also will go shopping for someone in need together. These experiences help to ensure you are raising a nice person and helps us all to battle that Christmas Gross feeling. These are just some ideas that I had. I would love to hear from you. Let us know how you can make Christmas less gross! Now, on to Thanksgiving! Oh, and a cute picture of Edie from last Christmas, of course.