Tag Archives: holiday tradition

Daddy, Do You Believe In Santa?

9 Dec

do you believe

letter Last night during dinner our family snuggled down in the big comfy couches of our living room and watched “The Polar Express”. Like so many holiday stories, the major theme as revealed at the end of the story is “belief for belief’s sake”. In the epilogue we learn that as the boy’s friends grow up, one by one they lose the ability to hear the sleigh bell as they each eventually stop believing in Santa. But the little boy, he never stops believing. As the credits roll (and “The Polar Express” is no exception in the pantheon of Christmas movies) we are left with the notion that holding on to belief for belief’s sake is a virtue, and that those who have lost it are in some way diminished.

polarexpress2

Teeth brushed, pajamas on, lights out, my 7 year old daughter crawled into her bed, fantastical images of the movie still swirling around in her head, and I laid down next to her for a little snuggle-time. A few minutes pass with the sweet, soft breathing of a child on her way to sleep. After a time she slowly rolled over and whispered quietly to me, “Daddy, do you believe in Santa?”

***

Now it should be said that this girl is a born skeptic. She is nobody’s fool, and she will be the last person bamboozled when the snake-oil salesman comes to town. When we watch “The Wizard of Oz” she sees the little guy behind the curtain more than the billowing, blustering fireball on the throne. This past spring, in a similar bedtime situation, she rolled over and confessed apologetically to my wife “Mommy, I’m sorry but I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny isn’t scientific and I just can’t believe in something that isn’t scientific.” But that said, I think everyone can appreciate how, compared to believing in the Easter Bunny, Santa is in a completely different league.

This being the holiday season, there are faith-centered images and messages everywhere. Children come to school talking about angels and miracles and the little baby Jesus. Relatives openly express their beliefs, different though they may be from your own, at family meals and on holiday cards in your mailbox. Kids are inundated by the notion of “belief” this time of year, and my kids are only just now old enough to listen to the things people say, think about those things to themselves, and then form their own opinions. What follows can be pretty profound.

SupermanRedemptionTPJust this Friday we had Christmas music playing in the house when out of nowhere, my daughter comes up to me and says, “Daddy, why do they say ‘god our heavenly father’? That doesn’t make any sense. God isn’t my father. You’re my father.” Then later in the weekend I overheard a very amusing discussion between my kids and their older cousins about whether or not Jesus actually had super powers. If nothing else these are moments to teach our children that everyone believes something different, and someone else’s beliefs are just as important to them as yours are to you. You have to respect that fact when you’re talking with other people.

That notion is applicable to Santa as much as it is to anything else.

I love that my daughter is a thinker. I’m proud of that fact and I want to celebrate it – to encourage it. But if belief for belief’s sake is the providence of children, then logic and reason are the hallmark of adulthood, and there is no clearer indication that my daughter is growing up more than the fact that she is thinking for herself.

So I found myself at that very uncomfortable crossroad. I’m proud of my daughter’s budding intellectualism and I want to encourage her to let it grow, but I also want her to stay my little girl for as long as humanly possible. I want her to think for herself, but I don’t want her to lose the magical naiveté of childhood belief any sooner than she has to. Meanwhile lying there next to me, my daughter’s heart really wanted to believe in Santa, even if her mind was telling her something else entirely.

My head and my heart are pulling me in two different directions, just as hers are.

So she looked to me, asking for permission… permission to let either her heart or her mind win out over the other. In so doing she was asking me to choose between encouraging her intellectual integrity and selling her snake oil. In that moment I had to decide.

Do I help her grow up, or hold desperately on to her fleeting childhood for one last moment?

***

“Daddy, do you believe in Santa?”

I laid there quietly for a moment not answering, afraid that my silence was enough of an answer for her.

On her bedroom floor against the wall was a little musical instrument her baby brother had toddled in and left earlier in the day – a Velcro wrist-strap with sleigh bells on it. Without answering I rose up from our snuggles, quietly made my way across her room, picked up the sleigh bells and brought them back to her bedside. Kneeling down I kissed her on the forehead and said, “Can you still hear the bells?”

“Yes,” she answered.

“So can I.”

That was enough for her.

Polar Express Bell

-Dork Dad

The Nutcracker vs. My Mancard

21 Dec

hen I was a kid I hated “The Nutcracker”. You couldn’t drag me to it if your life depended on it. As far as I was concerned it was for girls, it was boring, and it was full of all that fruity dancing. Of course I knew what it was all about. I’d seen enough clips on TV, and enough re-enactments by the girls during recess at elementary school to know it wasn’t for me. I could be wrong, but as un-American as it sounds, it is entirely possible that up until today I had NEVER actually seen a full-length production of “The Nutcracker”.

My son nutcrackers me up.

I’ve got kids now, and that means I do things outside of my comfort zone. My wife and I decided that the kids were old enough and we would go see “The Nutcracker” as a family this year. We picked this particular showing because it was billed as “family friendly”, which indeed it was — it was a matinée on a day I wasn’t working, it was relatively short (90 minutes) and the costumes were kid-appropriate. A friend recently posted on Facebook “Took two boys to the nutcracker… One fell asleep at intermission and the other said ‘mom, I can see that guy’s p3nis’”. Yeah, I didn’t need to deal with any of that. I am happy to report that in fact yes, the costume designers from the show came from the Christopher-Reeve-Superman school of codpiece design, rather than the George-Clooney-Batman school of codpiece design. As an aside, during his brief tenure as The Man of Steel,  Brandon Routh quipped how the producers and costume designers spent more time and energy worrying about how his package came across onscreen than they did the rest of his entire Superman costume. But I digress.

One is classic Americana, the other is Joel Schumacher ruining a franchise.

Not subtle enough? Fine. THIS is what I mean:

 

 

I’m older now, and my white hot opposition to all things “Nutcracker” has long since flamed out. I can certainly appreciate the athleticism, discipline, artistry and showmanship it takes to do what those performers do. In fact I actually WANT to expose my kids to as much of that sort of thing as possible. Additionally, “The Nutcracker” is one of my kids’ favorite bedtime books. We’ve read it 100 times. Put those things together and I was actually looking forward to today’s performance. I was completely prepared to come back and write a blog post about how I thoroughly enjoyed the entire outing. I was going to make a joke or two about going to the ballet and taking a few points off of my man-card, about how I was a bigger person because of it and what a Norman-Rockwell-Holiday-Spirity experience it was for all of us…

…this is not that post.

"Where's his sword, Daddy?" At the San Francisco show, son.

I want to be clear, the first half was wonderful. My kids already knew the story, so they were able to follow along and anticipate what was coming next. My 5-year-old daughter loves the princess, fairy tale parts. My 3-year-old son couldn’t wait to see the mouse king and the fight scene. It sparked some fantastic conversation about how you could tell a story without any words, and I was especially pleased when the light bulb went off in my daughter’s head and said to me “Hey. That’s the music from the movie you made of me when I was 2-and-a-half”.

 

 

The narrative clipped along nicely and it was filled with charm, humor and a little magic. It was very engaging. The kids were into it. We were into it. All the signs pointed to Norman Rockwell.

Then there was the second half.

If you’re familiar with the story, this is where the main character is whisked away by her handsome prince to many far-off lands, and they experience those foreign cultures through dance. Essentially, the story drops off a cliff. Imagine the “Whole New World”/magic carpet sequence from “Aladdin” lasting 40 solid minutes. It’s a potpourri of different cultural costumes and choreography, devoid of any real narrative which ultimately spells a death-sentence for a 3-year-old’s attention span. If the first half is for the lover of stories and theater, the second half is for the lover of dance. I realize what I’m about to say may upset a few people, but I’ll just put it out there. The second half of “The Nutcracker” is just freakin’ boring – and there’s STILL all that fruity dancing. My kids picked up on it immediately. “When is it over?” my son said every 120 seconds.

“When are the sugarplum fairies coming?” asked my daughter every 180 seconds. It was the only thing keeping her there in her seat. As it turned out, to keep the time down the sugarplum fairies were cut from the program entirely. My daughter felt totally gipped. Add to that the ridiculous souvenir push the instant you walked out the door, and the resulting double-kid-meltdown when we refused to wait in the 45 minute line to buy a $16 stuffed rat, and Norman Rockwell was pretty much blown out of the water. When we got back to the car we were all done.

To be fair, on whole the kids liked it. I liked spending time with my family and taking them out for a little “high culture” and holiday tradition. We got some cute pictures. The kids didn’t hate it. It was a net-positive. I daresay next year we’ll likely entertain the idea of doing it as a family again. I think my daughter will even be old enough to go up to San Francisco with my wife, make a fancy dinner/ballet/hotel date out of it, and see “The Nutcracker” put on for real…

…I’ll just prepare myself for a few uncomfortable questions when she sees what those guys are carrying around under their tights.

-Dork Dad

P.S. On an entirely unrelated note, I came across a video when I was looking for a clever picture to use with this post that tied Superman to ballet and dance. I first saw this video a couple of years ago. It has absolutely nothing to do with “The Nutcracker”, but I couldn’t deprive you of the experience. Enjoy.

 

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