Man’s Search for Doll!
It has been coming for weeks. Perhaps months. TV ads, shops and us – their parents are to blame. Somehow, it was around the same time that all parties started reminding our children that Santa was coming. TV ads with their news of toys and great delights. Shopping malls with their stands of chocolate and decorations. We, in desperation, started saying:
“Remember, Santa is watching you, so you have to be good!”
At 4 and 2, our girls run a constant cycle of fight/play/destroy the house/fight. We spend our time reminding them to share, shouting that they need to calm down and then screaming about getting some peace. Christmas and Santa offers an easy-to-use method of correcting bad behaviour and encouraging good behaviour. “Remember, Santa is watching you, so you have to be good!”
With Sunshine, this is working a treat. Just this evening, my wife tells me, she’s been a real Santa’s little helper. The past few weeks have seen her fetch, grab, get, and such. All those things we should really have robots for by now; instead we have children, whom we are encouraging to be independent and active by asking them to do those simple things we are too lazy (or busy writing blog posts!) to do. She is even indulging us a little. The other evening, Sunshine picked out a story for bedtime, which was a poem. “A poem!” I said, delighted.
“What’s a poem?” she said.
“Well, it’s a story, but it’s written like a song, with rhythm and…”
“Daddy, just read it.”
Despite this dismissive command, she quite enjoyed it. The next night, I tried her on The Hunting of the Snark (a less well known Lewis Carroll verse-story). That was a disaster. My copy needs more pictures. But I digress.
The point is this indulgence of her old man’s literary tastes is thanks to Santa, as is her general helpfulness. “Remember, Santa is Watching you, so you have to be good.”
Instead of actually being good, Starlight says “Baby Alive!” (In her language, Santa – in any context, within any grouping of words, spoken with any tone – means “Get excited and tell us what you want for Christmas!”)
We spoke with Santa earlier in the year, to make sure he could get Sunshine’s preferred gifts. With six weeks before the big day, he called back. Somewhat discombobulated, he pointed out that the shops no longer had Sunshine’s number 1 toy. He was worried that they may not be back in stock and she might lose faith. But he had a plan – an expensive plan that involved the Internet and some online retailer who had the toy, but little empathy for the plight of Santa coming up to Christmas.
We apologised profusely and asked how he was getting on with Starlight’s list. “Sure, it’s a doddle!” he said. We were happy that he was happy.
But then Starlight started saying “Baby Alive!” in response to any sentence that included the word “Santa” or “Christmas”. I looked at my wife. She looked at me. We looked at Starlight. She looked at us. “Baby Alive!” she said again, and I cursed under my breath. Then she said “Shoot!” and we steered her back to saying “Baby Alive!”
Our next call to Santa was something of a surprise for him. “Baby Alive, eh?” he said. “What about her surprise? That’s all sorted you know.” Santa is incredibly organised for us. The only really organised thing in our lives. “What if I call your parents, and ask them to get Baby Alive for her?” he asked. This couldn’t work. Because Starlight wanted Baby Alive from Santa, and Santa alone. We know this because we asked her. Three or four times. In the hope she’d forget about Baby Alive or that it had to be Santa that brought it. She did not forget. Even when we offered that it come from someone else, she said “Nooooo, from San-ta!”
“Well” said Santa. “We’ll have to see.” Santa’s great though. We got a note, sometime later, that it was sorted. The PS at the end said we should probably cut up our credit card too, as a gift to ourselves for the New Year. Santa’s not just for kids you know.
The kids are now getting quite excited, which is exciting us. Sunshine is now old enough and watched The Late Late Toy show and took it in I might add. Although, we are nervous. There is no way we can call Santa again. But she’ll be seeing all these toys and delights. You might think Starlight is too young to understand the idea of Christmas, being only 2.
When Sunshine was 2, she didn’t know who Santa was. Her mum did and had regular palpitations at the thought of him bringing Sunshine presents. Last year, when Sunshine was 3, we got the Santa excitement. Questions about who he was and where he came from and what he did &c. Even I, furrowing my brow as I paged through a bank statement had to smile.
This year, with Sunshine at 4 and Starlight at 2, there appears to be a mentor-apprentice relationship between the two. Sunshine – the Bill Cullen of the house – sets Starlight all sorts of tasks, reminding her that she has to be good if she wants Santa to come. Starlight replies by saying “Baby Alive!” and assaulting her sister.
I know how they feel, as I recently won an iPod. There is no reason for me to tell you this, except to point out that it’s a really strangely exhilarating feeling. I’ve won 1 thing in my life before. I’ve always taken comfort in the satisfaction of a job well done. But winning something – that feeling that ostensibly, you got something for nothing, except perhaps some cosmic luck - It’s just like Christmas. That great anticipation of wrapped presents. This year, Sunshine will be able to open her own. Starlight may require help. Although, now a little bigger than last year, her tactic of attacking the package with every limb and her mouth might just work. The glee. That sense of magic. The happiness. I have learned that one cannot truly find such happiness in material things, unless one is under 10 or has an under-10 year old in the house. And we do.
But we are incredibly lucky. I know this not by imagination, but by Christmases past, when my wife and I had managed to lose 3 jobs between us in the space of a couple of years. Santa called me the other day and mentioned he could use some help gathering some toys for some other friends of his. Well, with all the help he’s given us, I couldn’t well say no. So, I looked around – all he wants is a little help – and I guess I’m going to drop something off for children with Barnardos or the Saint Vincent de Paul