One of the nice things about having children 10 years into our marriage is that Chris and I know how to communicate and, in general, are on the same page about snacks, bedtimes, and appropriate behaviors/consequences. This helps us present a very solid, unified front and allows us to tagteam effectively. We may still get played, but we rarely get played against each other.
On the other hand, having children this late into our marriage can make you feel like a newlywed again... and not in the good way. I'm talking about the "Of course we'll drive to Paducah for Easter, right honey?" way or the "Why didn't you tell me your aunt was Vegetarian before I started grilling steaks?" way. If anything can bring out situations that you should have already discussed, it's the holidays, and the first big one with new children is no exception. It has been exciting, forming new traditions, introducing the kids to American Christmas, etc... oh, by the way the kids did not celebrate Christmas in Ethiopia, they only remember birthday parties, which kinda makes me giggle when that 80's song by Band Aid, gets played on the radio. There's a line in it about "Do they know it's Christmas Time at all?" I just keep thinking, "Nope. And they really don't care."
Anyway, This year I whiffed on a big one... well ok, we talked about it, but I kinda changed the flight path without clearing it with ground control. See, I told you, total new groom mistake. The topic: Santa.
The game plan was that we would tell the tale/legend/mythos of Santa, but emphasize that it was only a story. I've got no beef with Santa, but Chris wasn't a big fan and I don't think the, "OMG how did this present fit down the chimney?" surprise factor was part of her Christmas Day tradition. Knowing that she was going to spend the most time explaining, prepping, and wrapping, I didn't argue and frankly at Thanksgiving, this made a lot of sense to me.
But you can only answer, "That's how the story goes," so many times. And as December 25th drew closer and closer, the questions and reassurances came faster and faster. I could feel my stock answer crumbling under the pressure.
"Santa come here, yes?"
"Yes, that's the story."
"No, but his reindeer do."
"Yes, that's the story."
"Deer fly? No!"
"Santa's reindeer really fly."
"Yes. That's how Santa gets everywhere."
"Everywhere what everywhere?"
"Yes, every family. Oh, I mean, that's that story."
"So that everyone gets a present."
"Through the fireplace."
"Really? No! Too big!"
"That's the story."
"Yes! That's really how the Santa story goes"
"Um... Really Santa... story? Wait, what?"
"Er... uh, Senator, at this time I have no recollection of those events."
Finally one evening while I was reading books to them, Habtamu announced in front of his sister that there was no Santa. So I said, "If you don't think he's coming, then do not expect him to leave you any presents." I could see his pupils dilating as he tried to wrap his mind around that one. It may have ended the discussion, but I also knew I was on the downward spiral toward sleeping on the couch. I never said, "Yes, Santa will bring you stuff" but I certainly didn't say no. In my tradition, the family gifts were put under the tree before Christmas Eve, and then Christmas morning there were more presents and the stockings were mysteriously filled.
About a week before Christmas, the kids were out of the house for the evening and so Chris wrapped all the presents and put them under the tree. She also stuffed their stockings. I asked her if she saved anything for Christmas Day. "Why would I do that?" she asked. That's when we *should* have had the Santa discussion, but I just walked away. Its kind of hard to argue the case FOR Santa with another adult. Again, she did all the wrapping, it made sense to let her decide when to put things under the tree when she wanted to. We did save one present and two small grab bags that I got for playing guitar at a party, because we hadn't decided exactly what we were going to do with them. We knew that we would be leaving for 4 days the afternoon of Christmas Day, and this particular gift we didn't want to have to pry the kids away from after they opened it, so we decided to unveil it after the trip to the cabin.
Christmas eve, I rearranged the presents so at least maybe it would *look* like more stuff was under there, and put the two small bags with candy in front, figuring they could tear into those first thing and let us sleep an extra 30 seconds. Then, after Chris went to bed, it was really bothering me that nothing was coming from Santa, so I took the last gift, added "From Santa and his little helpers" to the card that came with it, and stuck it in the (unlit) fireplace. We have an iron fireshield which would have to be removed in order to see what's inside. I put the card on the mantle amongst the lights and decorations.
Tomorrow, we would no longer be waiting for Christmas. The anticipation would be over.
For whatever reason I was under the impression that family traditions were well thought out and had some form of rhyme and reason to their creation. "We visit your side of the family for Easter, mine for Christmas," kind of wheeling and dealing. I didn't realize that some were created because somebody ran out of time and needed a scapegoat, or because Daddy is lazy and passive-aggressive, or simply from whoever is the most stubborn and willing to put a present in the fireplace at 2am.
We must be family now because it's Christmas Eve and we haven't decided whether to invite Santa or not.