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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Santa Claus is a glory hog: Can I please tell my kids the truth?

As a real person, Santa Claus seems like he'd have to be a nice guy. Building toys all year round just to satisfy the desires of children all over the world in one marathon delivery service UPS would kill to be able to emulate. This is his goal in life: to give good children their just recompense and to give bad children, well, their just recompense: coal. Although with energy prices the way they are, naughty children might not even deserve that much.

But here's my beef with Santa: he's not real. I'm sorry if this broke your spirit to hear it from me. Just don't read this out loud to your children if you want them to believe the fallacy until the eyes of innocence surrender to the weight of evidence to the contrary. Like closets full of toys that wind up under the tree with Santa's name on them. Hmmm...

Now, I never really thought about this until having my own children, but now that I do, Santa ticks me off. After Christmas, my son, 4, told me he wanted to write Santa a thank you letter for bringing him all his little heart desired. While I'm grateful he's grateful, the gratitude is completely misdirected. Away from parents. We put the time, blood, sweat, and money to making that boy's Christmas memorable. Santa? He just sat on his imaginary rump and took the credit. I can assure you Santa didn't make anything my children got for Christmas, unless he got a $1.23/month job at a Chinese factory. I can also assure you he didn't deliver any of the presents, unless he was wearing a brown uniform and shaved his beard. And I can especially assure you he didn't build the kids' kitchen set. I did. And egad was it a big project. The thanks I get? "I'm so glad Santa got me all the things I wanted!" Well, call me old-fashioned, but I don't like being mistaken for a fat old man who wears a red suit and sneaks down people's chimneys at night and eats all their cookies.

Why can't I just tell my kids: "You know, Santa is fiction. Like Harry Potter, only harder to believe. Every toy you're now enjoying? That's me and Mommy. Why don't you write me a thank you letter?" I don't think I even got a verbal "thank you" for anything I gave the kids openly from Daddy and Mommy. Although they have repeatedly expressed how happy they are with what they got.

I guess the hard part of this is that society teaches them to believe. And we parents love the innocence it takes to believe such tales. So we reinforce it. We even brought our children to our church Christmas party where Santa came. Our son informed Santa he wanted a "toy combine tractor" which he had seen in a store. He thought it would be easier for Santa to just go buy it than make it himself. (It is. Trust me. I made a play kitchen, remember?) Our 3-year-old daughter sulked on an unknown man's lap until he finally put her down with a candy cane. Anyway, days later, when someone asked my son if he knew what he was getting for Christmas, he nonchalantly said, "A toy combine tractor."

"What if you get something else?"

"I'll get it. I talked to Santa about it."

And us sucker parents, who had already gotten him something else, couldn't crush the simple faith of our child in a fictional glory hog. So he got a "toy combine tractor" and the other present, which he loves as well. Does anyone else see something wrong with that scenario?

I vote for a world without Santa. For parents' sake. A world where I can shower my children with gifts and they in return shower me with love and affection. Besides, isn't Christmas supposed to be about He who bears its namesake? I think a better way to celebrate would be to tell the kids that Mommy and Daddy picked all the presents and paid for them, built them, or ordered them because we love them. But, it is Christ who gives us all things, right down to the holiday itself. Without Him, there'd be no Christmas. There'd be no presents. There'd be no us. If we emphasize that instead of Santa Claus, wouldn't the holidays be more complete?

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the kids open and play with their new toys. Now excuse me while I brainstorm how to kill off an old, fat, one-man-show so I can get a thank you letter from my appreciative son.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Daddy gift idea: Forget iPad or Kindle Fire, get him Kindle touch, Nook Simple Touch

Most married dudes know they can get their wife mad at them by playing too much with gadgets. Heck, this is the reason I don't have a smart phone, iPad or Kindle Fire. I know my life would get sucked into their little screen. Every idle moment I had would be filled playing games that require me to put candy in a frog-like monster's mouth with Rube Goldberg-style setups or to help a sewer crocodile take a shower that isn't toxic. While these games are fun, and there are a lot of positive uses for Web-browsing, game-playing gadgets like iPhones, I find the negatives outweigh the positives for me.

When I got married, I initially forsook most digital forms of entertainment and began reading voraciously. I kept a list of the books I had read for a while. In about two years that I kept the list, I had read over 200 books. But I recently slowed down on reading and started substituting gadget time again, much to my wife's chagrin.

But for Christmas, I got a Kindle Touch. This combines two of my favorite things: gadgets and reading. And it does it in a way that helps me like both better. This is a perfect daddy gift. While it reinforces the love of gadgets, it has one task: to make it easy to read. I read way more now that I have it. And with free classics readily available, I find my willingness to read things on the bucket list has expanded significantly. Heck, I downloaded War & Peace and am actually excited to read it. At least I won't be toting around a thick, thousand-page book for a month or more while I struggle through it.

The best part of this gift is my wife can't get nearly as mad at me for using it compared to other electronics I own. It's just picking up a book that happens to have a power switch. Now, my wife and I often read side-by-side on Kindles after our kids have gone to bed. No movies, no video games, no Internet surfing. Just quiet with the occasional click of a button or tap of a finger on the touch screen. Forget the iPad, just get a singularly focused e-reader and do something more worthwhile with Daddy's time.

It's not without its shortcomings, but I love having it. Especially now that the library carries Kindle books.

Get Daddy a Kindle