You’ve Got the Power
Photo: H. Jannine Setter
It is an enormous and overwhelming responsibility to be in charge of creating happy holiday memories for your kids. Think of your own, and how they loom large on your emotional landscape, and imagine having to sow, nurture and harvest those without coming up short, leading to emotional starvation and years in therapy for which we are ultimately responsible.
Jesus Christ, who’d choose to be Santa Claus if they had a choice?
I am certain Martha Stewart’s kids were chained in the basement weaving placemats and hot-gluing juniper berries while our backs were turned during her holiday home specials; in the actual world (not on TV with a big budget and minions galore), creating the perfect, wholesome, holiday atmosphere can turn any parent into a Scrooge or a slave-driver, leaving the kids wondering when it will all be over and longing to get back to the less labor-intensive and stressful world of school.
Okay, I admit it, I’d choose to be Santa Claus. And the therapy is a given, so why not give being Father Christmas a go?
The truth is, I love thinking about our kids: their likes, their passions, their individual natures. I love talking about them, too, but that makes one unpopular except during parent teacher conferences, therapy or coffee with Grandma, so Christmas or any gift giving occasion is like having a long internal discussion with myself about my kids, and it can be surprisingly satisfying for the rarely-social stay-at-home mom and introverted writer.
My wife and I manage holidays via e-mail. I send her proposals for gifts, gatherings and gotta-dos, she makes suggestions for additions and omissions, I execute. Except for those items she covers as the boy-mom: exterior illumination, anything involving ladders and all of our electronic needs. Oh, and whipped cream. She makes a mighty fine homemade whipped cream.
Admittedly, Santa Claus does bring strange things to our house—Nerf guns for everyone, graphic novels, live toads, sixty-pound punching bags and Starbucks coffee because mom and mom aren’t looking too lively at six in the morning on December twenty-fifth.
Martha Stewart or her minions are nowhere to be seen, but traditions abound. Our Christmas tree collection has probably topped a hundred, though I see those as secular rather than religious. We celebrate Christmas Eve with an annual mini-marshmallow fight using PVC pipe blow guns. And our yearly date with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in stop-motion involves moaning at the sexism, strict adherence to gender roles and espousal of conformity pushed in those unenlightened days.
I always point out that Rudolph and the reindeer games came before Title IX.
Despite my Ho-Ho-wholehearted enjoyment of indulging our kids with an annual excuse, there will be and have been barren years. Years when my brain was too full to grasp the difference between what they want and what I want for them. Years when I was influenced by passing references to enthusiasms left in the dust weeks ago. Years when influenza wiped out two weeks of productivity and Santa was left with what Amazon could deliver on time.
We do our best to dot our kids’ emotional landscapes with joyful moments remembered forever, amid the many mistakes that will take up 80 percent of the therapeutic hour. We did, after all, choose this role. It comes with the territory. As Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, with great power comes great responsibility. Even on holidays.
Blogger Bio: Beren deMotier is a Carol Brady in Levis/tattooed lesbian mama in a mini-van, obsessed with safety, doing the right thing and the amount of dog hair on her wood floors. She is a regular contributor to both Curve and Black Lamb, and has written for Hip Mama, And Baby, Pride Parenting, ehow.com, and for her blog, “That Lesbian Mom Next Door.” Her multi-award-winning book, The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage, recounts her giddy leap through a legal window, straight onto the barbeque pit of public debate when she and her partner married in Oregon in 2004, their three children along for the raucous ride. (berendemotier.com)