or, In Which I Give My Mother-of-the-Year Performance by Gaslighting My Child About Santa and some Elves....
Because I'm awesome.
Nevermind the fact that we're Jewish and have a Christmas tree--most years I can pawn it off as a Hannukah bush, but this year the Festival of Lights came so damn early in the month that there's no way I'm fooling anyone with the 5-foot pine tree sitting in the middle of our living room. Sure, its decorated in blue and white lights and glittery silver and blue ornaments, but no one's going to buy my "Hannukah bush" racket this year. It's a Christmas tree. This, though, will not have any bearing on Mother-of-the-Year for me; although it might put me in the running for Jew-of-the-Year. That, along with the fact that I haven't been to High Holy Day services in just shy of a decade make me pretty much a shoe-in or that award. Such honors.
No, I'm awesome because I totally sold my kid out and allowed him to feel that he was losing his grip on reality to cover my own bad gift-hiding ass last weekend. In years past, I could basically put a pile of presents any-old-where. For his first holiday season, he was still pretty much a squishy, rolling blob, so as long as I didn't leave presents unwrapped and littering the living room floor, I was pretty much assured he wouldn't find them. Even as he got older, so long as the presents remained in a Target bag and relatively out of the way---tucked under the dining room table, on the guest bed, wherever, he was pretty oblivious. Ethan wasn't keenly aware enough of the idea of presents and Santa to really think about searching the house for loot. Note to self: apparently, 4 years old is when that phenomenon kicks in.
I had, per my usual lackadaisical toss the toys wherever gift "hiding" habit, thrown some bags from Borders, Target & ToysRUs behind the bed in the guest room. On average, Ethan goes in that room...never. So I figured it was a fairly safe bet on keeping the presents hidden, even out in the open, in there. And so I went about my life, likely to forget about said presents, thereby continuing the excessive shopping and child-spoiling until the day before Christmas. Case in point, in mid-March of this year, I found an entire bag of stocking stuffers on the top shelf of our coat closet that I had forgotten to give to Ethan at Christmas. How the hell do pea-brained little squirrels remember where they've buried nuts all over our neighborhood and I can't remember a freaking bag full of M&Ms and Hot Wheels in my own damn closet?
On Saturday morning, as Husband and I were re-arranging furniture in the living room to make room for the not-really-a-Hannukah-bush, Ethan decided to take his little American Girl boy doll, Joey, for a stroller tour of the house. A tour of the house which apparently included the on-average-visited-never guest room. Where he promptly stumbled upon the unburied treasure, and from what I could tell of the wreckage, flung poor Joey into the hallway and came running out into the living room (poor Joey).
"Mommy, when am I getting my Hannukah presents?!" he asked excitedly.
"When Grammy & Grampy ship them to us, honey," I responded absent-mindedly--we'd just returned from celebrating Hannukah with my family and my parents were going to ship all the presents that Ethan had opened at their house in South Carolina back to us. I assumed those were the Hannukah presents about which he was referring.
"No, the other ones. By the bed. There are presents there!"
This is where the most basic holiday-cheer-preserving instinct to totally deceive your own flesh and blood kicked in. I smiled at Ethan and denied the existence of any such present-esque matter in the house. "Oh, honey, I don't think so. It's not Christmas yet and your Hannukah presents are in the mail." I'm not proud of myself, people.
"No, come! I'll show you! There are presents."
Now I'm thinking--he hasn't actually looked in the bags. If he had, he'd be flipping out, losing his ever-loving mind over the fact that there's a giant Optimus Prime in the Target bag. No way he could have seen that and not be screaming it from the roof-tops. There's still time to save my own ass.
"All right, honey. In a minute. Mommy has to go potty. Maybe you can help Daddy move these books out of the way for the tree while I'm in the bathroom.....Daddy? Hello, Daddy?! " Husband is OBLIVIOUS to what is going on and the "nudge nudge wink wink" is almost literal as I get up and race to the guest room.
Sure enough the bags are undisturbed--you've got to give him credit for having such holy-grail-esque reverence for the concept of presents that he dared not touch them. I grab all the bags, singing to myself as loudly as I can to disguise the sound of the rustling bags (we did have holiday music on in the living room, so that's not as bizarre sounding as it seems--maybe) and threw all the presents into the closet in my bedroom. Of course, in the process, I knocked Optimus Prime's shield and he began bellowing at me in his automated super hero voice to prepare for battle.
CRAP! I had to ramp up my "Hark the Herald Angel Sing" to new volumes of Christmas Pageant gone awry (did you have that kid in your Christmas pageant who just YELLED all the words to the carols? A little girl named Jean Nye did that every year from 2nd-6th grade at our school Christmas pageant and even as an elementary student, it made me mental. Just YELLED "Silent Night" at the top of her lungs. Jeez.)
Finally Optimus quit his jibber-jabbing and I got the closet door closed. Sweaty-palmed, I made my way back to the living room, but stopped in the bathroom to flush the toilet, you know, to remain true to my "have to go potty" ruse.
"Okay, honey, show me what you're talking about; I didn't see any presents." I said to Ethan as I came back in the room.
He was so excited I almost felt like declaring last Saturday the unofficial official day that Jewish-people-who-are-going-to-celebrate-Christmas celebrate Christmas....but I did not.
Instead, I let him take my hand and lead me to the guest room, around to the other side of the bed, to present to me....the empty floor.
I really didn't know whether to laugh or cry as he spun around looking for the pile of bags that had been there just moments ago.
"They were right here!" he said, looking up at me, spinning around looking all around him, and then pulling the blankets back on the bed to see if he had actually seen them underneath the covers (which totally cracked me up.) "Come with me," he took my hand and led me out of the guest room. For a minute I panicked that we were going to embark upon a house-ransacking tear until we found the newly relocated stash, but Ethan simply took me to each bed in the house and searched its perimeter. Closets didn't cross his mind; thank goodness he's still new at this.
I felt like a heel seeing how confused he was and didn't want him to think that the presents were taken away from him because he'd found them, so I took the deception one step further and totally blew his mind,
"Maybe the elves came to get them and took them to a safe place."
"The elves?" he whispered, looking up at me in awe.
"Sure, the elves."
"Let's go help Daddy move the rest of those books, okay?"
And that was that. He bought it. I pulled it off. I'm conflicted on several levels; one there's the whole we're Jewish and shouldn't really be dabbling in Santa and giant trees in our living room in the first place. Then there's the "Big Brother, erm, Santa is watching you" type of good behavior-inducing paranoia that makes me feel twitchy, and then there's just the out-and-out lie of "little tiny men dressed in jingly pointy shoes must have descended upon our house and moved your presents." Part of me LOVES it and thinks its a magical part of childhood and I love for Ethan to experience that wonder and amazement. The other part of me thinks, "you just totally sold your kid out to cover your own ass, you big fat lying liar who lies!!!!!!"
But in the end, it's fun, and I highly doubt anyone's ever needed psychotherapy later in life for having had parents who encouraged a belief in Santa and elves and magical presents that appear and disappear until Christmas morning.