The Santa Secret

I was in the second grade when I unmasked Santa. I’d had my suspicions for a while: the handwriting on the gift tags, the fact that Santa used the same wrapping paper as my parents did, and I’m sure I’d heard rumblings around the playground or maybe from my older brother. But whatever evidence I brought before them, my parents stood by Santa. Coincidence, they said. Santa’s helpers, they said. Go to bed, they said.

I spent that Christmas season snooping. I finally found my proof on Christmas day, not long after I received a beautiful Barbie dream house, pre-assembled under the tree. I was probably helping clean up wrapping paper, or perhaps making a last-ditch effort to make my point, but I found the box for the Barbie dream house in the garage, and my parents could pretend no longer.

I was not angry. I did not feel betrayed; I felt proud. Proud of myself for figuring it out. And I was grateful for my Barbie dream house, whoever gave it to me.

As I prepared to have my own children, I wondered whether I’d uphold the Santa myth. I didn’t want to lie to my children. Then again, I didn’t want to burden them with knowledge they couldn’t share with their classmates. I heard a lot of young parents considering the same conundrum. When they were babies, though, it was all academic.

Continue reading → The Santa Secret

How Christmas Movies Made Me a Better Parent (All Year Long)

Have you ever noticed how people talk a lot about how children learn, but they don’t have the same conversations about adults?

Maybe learning seems more important when the mind is young and malleable. Maybe we tend to forget about our own minds and hearts when we take on the responsibility of someone else’s. Maybe we don’t realize how much we keep learning as adults or how important it is that we keep learning well.

Learning is a particular concern of mine, and not just for my children. I’m the type of person who could have happily become a professional student, and failing that, I’ve become my own teacher. I’m a student of music, literature, foreign language, art, crafts, and even business.

I’m also a student of humanity.

Continue reading → How Christmas Movies Made Me a Better Parent (All Year Long)

Christmas Time is Here…

…bringing on a full-on identity crisis. With the exception of a couple angsty holidays in my 20s, I’ve always loved Christmas. But I’ve always felt conflicted about loving Christmas, like, am I the sort of person who loves Christmas? I rally hard (although less hard now that I have kids) against a lot that Christmas-season brings to the table, things like: consumerism, out-decorating your neighbors, unabashed and aggressive displays of religion that I worry it makes others feel excluded, buying clothes to be worn only once or twice, and the uptick in depression and anxiety for so many people. You know, just light stuff. Continue reading → Christmas Time is Here…

Writing Exercise: I’d Like to Make a Toast

Have you ever made a toast? I mean, a real one–not just “to us!” but a long, thought-out, possibly memorized speech. It’s an embarrassing prospect, especially for those who fear public speaking, but it’s also a nice idea, isn’t it? So I thought this year, though I won’t be standing up in my dining room making everyone listen to me prattle on, I’d write a toast–just for the heck of it. And then I thought it’d be more interesting to write a toast from one of my characters’ perspectives. Even if they, also, would never stand up and orate.

From the perspective of a highly introverted, possibly autistic sixteen-year-old girl, to her very large family on Thanksgiving:

Continue reading → Writing Exercise: I’d Like to Make a Toast

How to Be the Greatest Holiday House Guest*

Are you traveling this holiday season? Staying with family? Using strange towels that smell of strange fabric softener? Sleeping in someone else’s bed?

You’re not alone. Over twenty million Americans** will be staying with family members for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, and at least half of them will feel displaced, displeased, and generally disgruntled–especially if those family members are in-laws.

Here’s hoping, if you’re part of this group of intrepid travelers, you’re one of the happy ones–basking in familial love and the comfort of home. If not, don’t worry! We’ve got five happy hints to make your holiday away from home completely holly jolly.*** For you, anyway.

Continue reading → How to Be the Greatest Holiday House Guest*