Rules Are Meant To Be Broken

So I broke my own rule this year.

You might remember when I posted about My Christmas last year. And also when I ruined a lot of little boys’ and girls’ dreams when I told them Santa Isn’t Real.

If you’re new here and too lazy to go read those posts, because I totally sympathize with anyone who has the lazy virus (yes, I made it up, but I also think it’s a real thing — upcoming post on that later), in short I explain that I hate Santa. Not really, but I don’t tell my son that Santa is real, Santa doesn’t bring him presents, there is no magic on Christmas other than the real magic of love and family and Momma finding ways to pull money out of thin air because she goes way too overboard with gift-giving.

At least, that’s how it used to be. Until that jolly old bastard forced his way into my life.

Stern Santa

Photo Credit: LadyDragonflyCC – >;< / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 / (cropped)

I have never, not once, not ever, encouraged a belief in Santa. But that bitch is everywhere. Every time anyone talks to my son, they ask him if he’s excited for Santa to bring him presents. They ask him what he wants from Santa. They tell him he better be good or Santa won’t come. They lie, because Santa ain’t bringing shit and Momma is going to get Holden way too many presents no matter how bad he is because she’s a sucker. So I tried not to lie.

I tried not to lie not only for my own selfish reasons (I wanted the credit, I didn’t feel like dealing with my son’s devastation when he found out the truth, etc.) but for the world. I don’t like the concept of Santa for many reasons, but some of them are kind-hearted. I don’t like the concept of Santa because what happens when one kid gets the pony he asked for but another doesn’t even get the pair of socks she wanted? Is Santa mad at her? What happens when rich parents buy their daughter a whole room’s worth of presents but poor parents can’t even afford to give their son a decent meal? Did Santa forget about him? What happens when the really bad kids get all sorts of stuff but the super sweet and kind children get little to nothing? I’ll tell you what happens — the super sweet and kind kids think they weren’t sweet and kind enough and become broken, while the really bad kids realize that they can get away with whatever the hell they want, because Santa is a pushover.

I know there are a lot of systems in place to make sure some of those things don’t happen. Toy drives and food banks and the like. And that’s wonderful, and I’ll talk more about that in a moment. But, what happens when a child’s world is turned so upside down that they don’t want toys or clothes or food? What if they want their sick mother to get better, or their deceased father to come back, or for their brother to stop coming into their room at night, or to have a home bigger than a cardboard box? What does Santa do then? There are some pretty amazing people in the world who have just the right thing to say to these kids to restore their hope, but sadly not every child gets paired up with such a person. Sometimes, kids won’t even tell an adult that these are their wishes so no one even knows, but Santa knows because they wrote a letter to the North Pole. I just think that “Santa” should be more realistic, more attainable. I don’t know how Saint Nick turned into a fat man in a red suit shimmying down chimneys to leave everyone a puppy, but what if Santa was more of an idea than an actual person?

Instead of having that image in their heads, we could tell children that Santa was a helping hand. A kind stranger. A welcomed friend. That family member who took you in for the night so you could have a home-cooked meal and a roof over your head, that’s Santa. That stranger who donated a toy so a needy child somewhere would have something to unwrap on Christmas, that’s Santa. The friend who gives you their kids’ old coats and shoes, that’s Santa. The teacher who takes extra time to really listen and speaks those words I talked about one paragraph up, that’s Santa. Anyone who keeps the hope alive, those people are the Santa I want my son to know about. It doesn’t have to be any less magical just because it’s real. Reality is filled with the best kind of magic, sometimes you just have to look a little harder to find it.

And I did find it this year, which is why my grinch heart grew ten sizes and I broke all the rules I just spent 800 words telling you about.

At first everything was going according to plan. My son and I had a little talk and I was like “You know Santa isn’t real, right? He’s just pretend. But you can’t tell anyone because some people think he’s real, so it’s a secret.” and my son was like “Yeah! Okay!” and everything was good. We went to a Christmas parade later that night with Holden’s best friend and her parents and Santa was there but we didn’t feel like waiting in the ridiculously long line to meet him so while the adults were discussing it Holden mentioned that Santa was just pretend and that Mommy got all his presents and I had to remind him that he had to be quiet about it because Sylvia didn’t know about the secret but thankfully she was far enough away that she didn’t hear anything.

Then the next day I was telling Jack about how proud I was that Holden was so cool with the whole thing, but Jack doesn’t agree with me and wants Holden to believe so he wasn’t convinced and called Holden over to ask him if Santa was real or not. Holden said he was. I was confused. I asked him a few things and did a Homer Simpson’s “Doh!” (which pretty much means I’m so stupid for those of you who have lived on Pluto for the past 20 years) when it became very obvious that there was no way for me to have kept it real. In an above statement I said “that bitch is everywhere” and I was not lying. There are Santa decorations on people’s houses and in stores. There are Santa shows and movies on TV. That fucking elf (which I will have no part of, even if does make me a horrible parent and destroy my son’s sense of wonder) is even in his school, which I think is horrible because what about the other religions? But that can be addressed later. In the end, I came to the conclusion that he really wanted to believe in Santa, so I decided not to be that asshole parent who fights with her kid over his imagination. I decided to let him believe.

I’ve still never uttered the words “Santa is real” and if Holden ever asks me I’m going to tell him the truth. And it was difficult to find some sort of middle ground where I don’t feel like I’m lying to my kid but I’m also letting him relish in these childhood moments that he obviously wants.

I didn’t find it. Over the next week I realized there was no way I couldn’t lie. There’s still a part of me that doesn’t like it, but we’re having fun so I guess it’s okay? I don’t know. I’m still torn. I guess I’m like Darth Vader (speaking of which, STAR WARS amirite?! I haven’t seen it yet but I plan to on Tuesday or Wednesday so SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTHS about anything that happens), because he is good (and realistic) but then he turns to the Dark Side for a long time but he still holds on to some of the light for his son that makes its way through and saves everyone in the end. Except for himself. I hope I don’t have to sacrifice myself when it comes time to stop this charade. I’d be all “Holden, I am your mother. Santa is a ruse. Run child, save yourself!” because obviously all of the elves would be riding the reindeer and shooting candy canes at my Death Star’s hole. That much sugar isn’t good for anyone.

I’ve gotten way off course so let’s bring it back. We left off at Over the next week:
my son decided he wanted to write Santa a letter. So I helped him. He first asked for Santa to bring his friend Sylvia presents, then said he would like a “Transformer Optimus Prime that turns into a truck”. That’s when I knew I’d made the right decision. Because any kid who puts his friends first and only asks for one thing deserves to believe whatever they want. That’s also when I realized I’d have to make another trip to the toystore even though I had previously thought all my shopping was done.

Then my mom wanted to take Holden on The Santa Express, a train in my area that goes 45 minutes in one direction, makes about a 20 minute stop so you can explore, then goes back another 45 minutes in the other direction. Doesn’t sound too exciting but I forgot to mention that Santa himself, and some of his elves, are on the train. Plus it’s an old, cool train. Holden loves trains and Santa and elves and had never ridden a train before or met Santa (except for in those mall pictures I forced him to take) so it seemed pretty freaking perfect, actually. And according to my mother, it was.

Holden brought his letter and they sat in the Cafe car at actual tables in actual chairs and snacked and played with a Christmas Rubik’s cube (that I’ve since hidden because fuck those things). Then Santa and the elves walked down the train and met with, talked to, and spent time with every single person. It wasn’t a quick hi-hello-snap-a-shot-goodbye — “Holly” the elf came first and spent a good long while talking to Holden and waiting him out while his shyness subsided, then Santa sat down with him and read his letter and watched him coloring and talked to him about Christmas, and then my mom took a picture.

Santa and Holly the elf

When I was typing the description for this, I put “Seawhore” instead of “Seashore” and I think that’s what we should call it from now on.

Holden got home and was very excited to tell me all about it. So, I think possibly being attacked by killer candy cane-wielding elves and their reindeer counterparts is worth it.

And over the next week he’d ask me if the elves were done making his present or if Santa had come yet and other various questions that were based on a lie, and I answered them all, according to the lie. (I did not, however, tell him that Santa wouldn’t bring his present if he was bad. I told him I’d beat him with a shoe and lock him in the closet.) (Just kidding, jeez. I told him that I would give his presents to someone else. Even though we all know I won’t. But he already knows I’m a sucker, I don’t want him thinking the same thing about this mythical creature of his.)

You’d think I’d be done by now, but I’m not.

Remember my last two posts talking about the James Garfield Miracle over on The Bloggess? It’s where people who are in need and people who want to make a difference all come together and make magic happen. See, there’s that real magic I was talking about before. The kind people who helped gift I-don’t-even-know-how-many children (and some adults and fur babies) are the real Santas. And the people who were gifted know that. There were so many praises to their “Santas”, “Secret Santas,” “Elves,” and “Angels” it was heartmelting. (That’s my new favorite term, by the way.)

I had originally gone there to tell Jenny (aka The Bloggess) how amazing she was and had hoped to purchase someone a small gift, spend maybe $20 or less. Then I realized my stepkids needed help so I asked for it. Then things turned around and I was blessed (for lack of a better term) to be able to get my stepchildren really cool gifts (not the main, big one they both wanted, but still awesome gifts nonetheless) and give back and help the tribe.

While searching through the lists to figure out exactly who to help and what to get them, I saw a woman post that her son had asked for a Flash costume, but he wasn’t expecting to receive it because “Santa can’t make superheroes”. I had to get it. Not only because it reminded me so much of my son, but because of that word — can’t. I wanted to scream from the rooftops “SANTA CAN DO ANYTHING” and I don’t even believe, or want my child to believe. Where was this coming from?

I got her son the costume and her daughter a poster and added a gift message — “Santa can do anything if you believe. So can Mommy. She’s the real superhero.”

So I broke my own rules. But my son is happy and I am happy and a bunch of other parents are happy and so many kids will be happy on Christmas morning. Love, guys. That’s what Christmas is about. And I love each and every one of you. So if you still believe in Santa, or insist on teaching your kids he’s real, that’s fine with me.

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Generosity and Gratitude

I know many of my followers have hard times. I know some of my followers have good times. Both can be overwhelming during the holiday season.

To make things a little easier (and probably more overwhelming, but in a good way), Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) is holding her Sixth Annual James Garfield Miracle. Basically, it’s an online event “hosted” by her taxidermied boar’s head named James Garfield, where people who are in need can ask for help and people feeling generous can give it. It’s all done in the comments of the post I linked to. Here, I’ll do it again.

The basic principle is to help children or extra super special people who probably aren’t going to have much of a Christmas this year. It’s also done through Amazon.

The way it works is: people in need, those who cannot afford gifts (or food, or other needed/desperately wanted items) go to Amazon and make a wish list. It can get a bit confusing, but it’s fairly simple. Title the list anything you want, but it’s helpful to title it something like “Holden’s Christmas List” or “Christmas for the kids”, you know, something related to what you’re searching for. Then browse Amazon for the things you’d like, or would like to give someone but cannot afford, and add them to the list. The list must be publicand there must be an address attached so the people who purchase things for you can send them to you (or wherever you want the items sent).

Once you’ve made your list, go to the post I already linked to twice and leave a comment with the URL. It’s best to include a little information, like who the list is for and such. If you want to explain your/their story (like why these items cannot be afforded right now), you are more than welcome to and the community will take you in with open arms. However, if you’re not comfortable sharing, that’s fine, too.

People who want to help: scroll through the comments, find the person/people you’d like to help, click on their list, find something(s) on it you’d like to send, and purchase it! It’s that easy.

If anyone has any trouble, the community of commenters will help you to figure it out. The only thing is that there are no comment replies set up. If Jenny replies to you directly, she does it in a bolded edit on your comment. If other people reply to you, they’ll start their comment with your name and possibly comment number. So you’ll have to go back to check if you expect responses.

This was started only a few days ago and there are already over 2,300 comments. Don’t let that discourage you, though. The comments are mixes of people asking for help, people giving help, people thanking for the help, kind words, recommendations, etc.

I will admit that even I have asked for assistance through this event. At first I had planned on helping, but then I realized that my stepkids (referred to here as Nixon and Nathaniel) need a little magic, so I asked for them. Unfortunately the one thing they really want is super expensive (almost $300) so instead of asking for that I put a bunch of Amazon gift cards on my/their wishlist. Hopefully enough people will pitch in so I can get them their one shared wish, but if not that’s okay, too. The outpouring is more than enough and I’ll at least be able to get them something.

(Most of you know I have a biological son, as I talk about him often. Don’t fret about him — he’s more than taken care of thanks to my father. I’m actually even considered returning one or two of his gifts to put the money towards the kids’ present.)

Even if you’re not in need and can’t help, simply browsing the comments and seeing the staggering number of people coming together for each other is heartwarming. It’s more than heartwarming, it’s heartmelting.

This Isn’t A Real Post

But I just wanted to say Hi. And Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays, and all that.

Mine was swell. Holden is about passed out he’s so tired and I’ve started reading The Bloggess‘s book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, and Jack is snuggled up under his new comforter and Nate is, I hope, a bit happier after our phone call this morning and I’m planning on writing him as soon as I’m done this, and things are as wonderful as they can be, and I wanted to share.

Even though it doesn’t seem like I’ve been gone for long, all of my last week’s posts were pre-scheduled so to me it feels like a lifetime and I miss y’all.

Happy Festivus!

Manic Holidays

The last time I was really, truly experiencing a full-fledged manic episode was about this time last year.

Since my diagnosis I’ve been able to look back and understand what was going on. Back then I had no idea.

There are “yard sale” pages on Facebook. It’s kind of like Craigslist, but some are only for certain towns, other for certain items, and it’s just all much easier and more legit and less murdery than Craigslist. I adore yard sales and good deals and secondhand items, so of course I started doing all of my holiday shopping on these Facebook Yard Sale pages.

I got really into it. Really, really into it. I spent every waking moment scouring through the postings trying to be the first one to comment “INTERESTED!” so I could get my son everything he never even dreamed. I got a scooter for three dollar. Three dollars. He still rides it.

Things were going splendidly. I mean, Jack and my dad weren’t exactly happy that I was spending all my time online and all my money on shit my son didn’t really need, but I found such good deals they were also somewhat proud of my mad bargaining skills.

Then I became increasingly aware of families in need. You may not recall, but there were a lot of fires in South Jersey last winter. So many unfortunate families lost everything right before the holidays. There were posts begging people to give anything they could, even just a pair of socks. I gave what I could, when I could.

Then the posts got more specific. Eight-year-old girl, four-year-old boy, nine-month-old baby; girl likes this and that and boy likes that and this and baby needs whatever. So I started searching not only for me, but for them. I found a great deal on a shitload of The Littlest Pet Shop pets and homes and case for ten dollars. I bought it for one of the little girls. I went to Five Below and bought one of the boys a toy train for five dollars. I gave away all of Holden’s baby stuff I had held onto for no apparent reason.

In the midst of all this, a friend of mine reached out. She had been having a very hard time financially and was afraid she wouldn’t be able to provide a proper Christmas for her children. I went into full gear at this point. I made post after post about how I knew families in need; I started collecting donations; I would drive up to an hour away to pick up a bag of clothes or a box of toys. Now I was spending every waking minute online, driving, and sorting through the mountains of crap collecting in my basement.

I was obsessed. I would stay up until 4am searching for the perfect postings on the Facebook pages, afraid to miss anything good. I would then wake up at 9am and immediately rush out the door to meet someone. One time I had the car so packed I was literally sitting on top of a bag to make enough room for me.

Holden never saw me. Whenever I was home I was in the basement, sorting through all the donations I had received, separating clothes by size and toys by family. I was supposed to be attending college at the time, but my self-made / self-run charity quickly overtook any responsibility I had to anything else.

My best friend’s mom also experienced a fire, and I drove several towns away in the middle of the night during a snowstorm to pick up a couch for her. I then kept the couch in the bed of my truck, covered with tarps, for weeks until she was able to move it into her apartment.

I cared about everyone else far more than I cared about my own well-being.

After Christmas, once most of the families had everything they needed, I crashed. And I crashed hard. I didn’t get out of bed for two weeks. I didn’t check my computer or play with my son or do my homework or even make food. There was no point to my existence.

Once I went back online, I had several livid messages from people who I had told I might be able to help. When I first felt the crash coming on, I had told mostly everyone that I was dealing with personal stuff and would do the best I could, but would be dialing it back for a while. They didn’t care. One of them attacked me for trying to sell some of my own stuff, instead of giving everything I own to needy families. Another cyber-yelled at me for hours because I wasn’t able to help a family she knew. More and more people were coming out of their hiding places blaming me for all of their problems.

That’s when I decided to stop. By this point I could barely handle my own thoughts, let alone others unloading all of their crap onto me.

Now I still have a basement full of stuff and, a year later, haven’t managed to sort through any of it. When I said my crash was hard, I meant it. I suffered the longest depression I have ever known, and am just now beginning to pull out of it.

And now I know. I know that the holidays are a trigger that can send me into mania. I know I can go overboard and I know I’ll put others before myself and I know I’ll crash again, and I can’t afford to do that anymore.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters is coming to pick up some of the bags in my basement next Saturday. I’m slowly chipping away at the pile of mess, at my own pace. I’m still offering to people in need, so long as they do things on my terms. I want to help, but I sometimes have to put my own health first.

Sometimes I have to be the one in need.

Santa Isn’t Real

Soon Santa will be coming and bringing all the little children presents (let’s face it, even the bad kids get presents — the only kids who don’t are poor or don’t celebrate Christmas).

There will be trees and wrapping paper and tinsel and candy canes and gingerbread houses. A plate will be left out with cookies and milk and all will be wonderful and when the children wake up, one cookie will have one bite taken out of it to show Santa was there.

The unwrapping will commence and a mythical creature will get all the credit for your hard work.

Nope. I don’t think so. Not in my home.

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You see, I am not filling my child’s head with lies. There is no Santa in my own. I am motherfucking Santa — Momma Santa come to shower you with shit you don’t need. And you better believe I am eating all of those cookies and drinking all of that milk. Waste not, I always say.

Honestly, I don’t really care either way if you choose to tell your children Santa is real or not. But be informed that my kid might very well be the one to break the bad news and send your child home crying one day after school. Sorry in advance about that.

I just don’t like the whole idea. We pound trust, truth into our children’s heads from the moment they are old enough to understand, but before that we tell them stories about Santa and the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy and all the wonderful fake magical people who come and bring treats and presents and money, and why? Why do we do this? To instill imagination and a sense of wonder?

Yeah, my kid has that already, thankyouverymuch.

The other thing is that we’re not religious. There’s no Virgin Mary or Sweet Baby Jesus in our home around Christmas — we simply celebrate it for the shallow notion of the holiday season and the presents. Which is quite alright with us, also thankyouverymuch.

So what does Santa have to do with any of this? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Just like there is no special creature on birthdays, we celebrate Christmas because we love each other. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. We enjoy the colors and smell and feel of the holidays and we enjoy getting and giving new stuff and we enjoy our family, so we celebrate. Let me say that again: We enjoy our family, so we celebrate. Santa is not a part of our family.

Lying is not a part of our family, either. Now, I’m not going to scar my child for life or anything. If he chooses to believe, so be it. But I am not going to tell him Santa is real.

For example, Nixon (Nate’s oldest) asked us all the time if the Tooth Fairy and Santa were real. We told her no every single time. But, she wanted to believe so she believed. We didn’t yell at her. We didn’t pound it into her head that she was wrong. We just didn’t indulge her beliefs. And guess what? She’s fine.

I refuse to have this happen to me:

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