Santa Claus was at our house until almost 1 a.m. last night waiting for children to fall asleep, setting up toys in imaginative positions, listening to music and talking. Big Mama and I are Santa, and what an awesome responsibility that is. Like all of parenthood, there is no handbook for being Santa, you just become him. One day you aren't, and then just like that, some December 24th, late night, you are. Nine years ago, I found myself suddenly awake later than normal, snapping plastic pieces together, eating complimentary cookies and completely wrapped up in the Christmas spirit from a perspective I'd never had before.
Being a parent is the most important job I'll ever have, and acting as Santa once a year is an extension of that. It's not just the giving of life to a child, but giving childhood to a child. Keeping the magic of being a kid alive from year to year. There are no official lessons for this, there aren't even instructions handed down from generation to generation, it's just something that is done. The tradition of being Kris Kringle is a baptism under fire as we sneak around filling stockings, pulling toys from their myriad hiding places, putting together Big Wheels and plastic kitchens and Lincoln Log houses before wiping the Chinese lead from our hands to eat cookies and drink milk. And wine. This most wonderful time of the year is for the children, but this time of the night, on Christmas Eve, is for the parents to be alone and wallow in their very own traditions. Have fun with it, talk about your kids and know that it will all be a secret from them until they are parents themselves one day and by then they'll have their very own midnight tradition.
The Quartet was thrilled this morning, of course, they got new things left under the otherwise useless tree that has taken up space in their house for the past three weeks. They played with their toys and ripped into the wrapped packages and then they just fell into the middle of all of this holiday detritus with the swollen and contented look of a sated hog on their elf-like faces. And this, really, is what it's all about. It's the moment we as parents talk about. They don't need to know what frivolity and giggling went on just six hours earlier without them. Let them figure it out on their own one day, one day when the childhood magic has gone, let them find their own magic on the other side of that red suit.