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I got my 10-year old daughter an iPad for Christmas last year.
Ordinarily I’m not the type to give my child something extravagant. See, I raise her with the same beliefs my mother taught me: not getting what we want makes us who we are; and no matter where you are in the house, when you’re done with your bath towel, always leave it on the floor.
My daughter learned the truth about Santa before I was ready. I remember her coming home from her father’s house, and I was hanging stockings. She said, “I don’t know why you’re hanging those—Santa isn’t real.” I was upset with her father for telling her. Not because I wanted to continue the lie, but because I wanted to be the one to break the news.
Since then, Christmas has followed a distinct pattern: We go to the Walgreens parking lot and pick out the saddest, most confused-looking tree. Our yearly visit to Santa is less about whimsy and more like a forced visit to the retirement home. Our under-the-tree situation is pretty barren: a few inexpensive items, maybe a sweater and an off-brand Barbie. The stockings are typically filled with bathroom necessities, and of course, the traditional inedible tangerine.
But something changed in me last year. Perhaps I got caught up in the Christmas madness, was unknowingly brainwashed by a radio ad, or maybe my mother’s passing had reignited some sort of Christmas nostalgia.
Whatever the reason, I was pretty excited with that iPad purchase. Actually, I was freaking ecstatic.
All I could think of while driving home from the store was her reaction when she opened her present: the look of priceless, beautiful, unfiltered joy. After years of lackluster gifts, this would blow... her... mind.
I began to glean a deeper understanding of why parents spend year after year trying to outdo themselves. It starts with bicycles, then the next year a Nintendo, until eventually they’re frantically trying to tape together enough iPhones to form a Mercedes-Benz.
We do it so we can hear the shrill excitement in our child’s voice, so they can look at us with their beautiful joy-filled eyes and say, “This is the best Christmas EVER!” And all your efforts and sacrifices would be worth it. You laugh, cuddle, drink cocoa, and connect to wifi. This is what Christmas is all about.
My plan was basic, yet perfect: a timeless classic. Hide the good present, then just when they think they’ve reached the end of another lame Christmas, BOOM—whip out the cool gift.
“Oooooh, it looks like SANTA forgot one,” were my exact words. As my daughter unwrapped her special present, I sat calmly on the couch, placing my coffee down on the end table, and nudging the discarded wrapping paper away with my foot to give her a clear path to hug me, her mom—the one who would finally be declared “The Best Mom.” I waited for her reaction. She looked at her new iPad. Then she looked at me. Then she said:
“I really wanted a laptop.”
She really wanted a laptop.
“Santa was out of laptops.”
“Santa... is not... real.”
Somewhere I went wrong. Maybe it was when she was young, and instead of filling her head with silly stories, I told her the truth. I suppose I could try to understand why a 10-year-old would have the same reaction to opening an iPad as most kids would a pack of crayons. But I think we just know that, sometimes—despite our best efforts—10-year-olds can be real buttholes.
So in the future, instead of wasting my hard-earned money on presents? I think I’ll just save up for her therapy.