My husband informed me that Operation Santa Gift had been successfully carried out with a text:
The eagle has sharted! I repeat: the eagle has sharted!
The relief that spread through me was absolute. Months of successful planning and a very rough evening were finally off my plate. There was no more I could do and only hope for the joy morning would bring.
I had just gotten our daughter to sleep after a prolonged episode of panic attacks and relaxation breathing exercises. My daughter is the high-strung sort and almost every night manages to get herself worked up to near or full panic about something or other. Given that it was Christmas Eve, she had now gotten herself into a frenzy over the possibility of not falling asleep, which would, she reasoned, result in Santa skipping our house. This took creative explanations from me about how I was sure that, so long as she didn't go downstairs, even if she was awake, I bet Santa would come. After all, he only needs to avoid being seen. This helped but her generalized anxiety got to her and the concerns moved on to everything else imaginable. My daughter is the genetic descendant of a long line of ultra-perfectionists, Hungarian perfectionists in fact. Despite my and my husband's efforts to counteract the self-inflicted pressure that comes with that, it still expresses itself, especially at bedtime. It was after 10 when the deep breathing and affirmation exercises finally began to make a dent. With calm, sleep thankfully followed a short time later.
As usually happens, I was so exhausted from acting as the crisis counsellor that I headed straight to bed myself. I hoped all my efforts for her Santa Gift would pay off.
I don't take Santa lightly in my house. I am convinced that my joy and fun in believing in Santa is part of the reason I have such a positive association with fantasy today. As a fantasy author, that is something I am deeply thankful for. I never felt like I had been "lied to" as so many people do. I had been given a chance to believe in good things in a world that demands cynicism. Make believe can bring so much more than fun. I didn't see Santa as the source of free stuff. I saw him as hope that there are benevolent people out there who want to make others happy and will go to extraordinary lengths to do so. Even when I learned the truth about Santa, in my heart, I am still a believer. When I go to bed on Christmas Eve, I think of a man in a sleigh flying around the world. I know there isn't really one but there are millions of children dreaming of and hoping for this and that collective hope makes me smile; the hope of better things.
With my daughter, I do everything I can to make the gift from Santa special. That doesn't mean I buy huge things. In my mind, Santa is about good will not materialism. My daughter goes to a school with children from all sorts of financial backgrounds so we always keep the Santa gift modest and donate several to Santa's Anonymous as well. I don't want the kids at school to start wondering why Santa isn't so generous with the poor kids. In our house, a small gift does not mean unimportant.
My daughter always gets a letter from the elf that assembled her gift. This year, my daughter asked Santa to surprise her. She couldn't think of anything she wanted to ask for. She had already asked us for two things and had no other ideas. She figured asking Santa to decide was good enough.
So, in response, she got not one elf but a committee of five who worked very hard to come up with her present. One, a small child elf, even wrote her a (very bad) Christmas poem. In particular, my daughter, given how much pressure she puts on herself to be perfect, got a letter and a poem that emphasized effort over product. They were about how we can love and honour each other even when we are not perfect, even when we fail.
When she heard the poem, she said about the little elf, "Well, yes, he does need more work but he did try really hard!" After she opened her present, a Baymax stuffy, she hugged it close for a long time. She told me later, "Mom, the elves said they don't get many chances to be creative with the presents. I think from now on I will always ask to be surprised so that they have an opportunity to express themselves."
And in that moment, my heart burst. It showed me that all my efforts and reasons were validated through the roof. It showed that my daughter is such a kind and compassionate person. She is as good to others in the world as I wish everyone else would be. This year's gift wasn't about a stuffy. It was about her and her pride in herself and, if I did it right, believing in Santa will teach her it is ok to be just as good to herself as she is to everyone else.
P.S. Thank you to our friends Lea, Angela, and Morgan for signing as the elves to help complete the magic!