Recently I heard the heartbeat of my unborn granddaughter! Separated by several thousand miles from her parents, this miracle came to us in a text.
Michael and I are eagerly anticipating the birth of our first grandchild. We first heard the news last Mother’s Day when our son visited us on a business trip. Joined by his wife on the phone, we unscrambled letter tiles to discover the exciting news: “You are grandparents.”
I was fortunate to know and spend time with all four of my grandparents. However, we lived across the country from them and visits were special but infrequent. With my grandchildren, I want to be a more integral part of their lives.
Our world today has changed in so many ways from my youth. Today’s grandparents live longer and are younger, healthier and more involved than ever before. As a result, we can see a greater number of three- and four-generation families.
As grandparents, we can enjoy an expanded role with our grandkids. We can reconnect with the joys of discovery and play and give our most valuable gift--time. In the words of Rudy Giuliani, “What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies.”
There is a certain magic surrounding the belief in Santa Claus for young children. And we can feel a twinge of sadness when they get old enough to question if he is real or declare that they no longer believe in Santa. I would like to share a couple of ways that other parents have come up with helping their children to retain the heart of giving as they mature.
Son: Dad, I think I’m old enough to know now—is there a Santa Claus?
Dad: (Stalling to figure out an answer) Ok, I agree that you’re old enough. But before I tell you, I have a question for you. The truth is a dangerous gift. Once you know something, you can’t unknow it. Are you sure that you want to know?
Son: (After a brief pause) Yes, I want to know.
Dad: Ok, I”ll tell you. Yes, there IS a Santa Claus.”
Dad: Yes, really but he’s not an old man with a beard in a red suit. That’s just want we tell kids. You see, kids are too young to understand the truth Santa Claus until they are as old as you are. The truth is that Santa Claus isn’t a person, it is an idea. Think of all of the presents Santa gave you over the years. I actually bought those myself. I watched you open them. And did it bother me that you didn’t thank me? Of course not. In fact it gave me the greatest joy. You see, Santa Claus is the idea of giving for the sake of giving, without thinking of thanks or acknowledgement. When I saw that woman collapse in the grocery store last week and call for help, I knew that she’d never know that it was me who called the ambulance. I was being Santa Claus when I did that.
Dad: So now that you know, you are part of it. You have to be Santa Claus also. It means that you can never tell a young child the secret and you can help us select Santa presents for your younger siblings. Most importantly, you have to look for opportunities to help people all year, not just at Christmas. Got it?
Son: Yeah, I think so. Thanks, Dad.
Anonymous-adapted from an internet posting
In our family, we have a special way of transitioning the kids from receiving from Santa, to becoming a Santa. This way, the Santa construct is not a lie that gets discovered, but an unfolding series of good deeds and Christmas spirit. When they are 6 or 7, whenever you see that dawning suspicion that Santa may not be a material being, that means the child is ready.
I take them out "for coffee" at the local wherever. We get a booth, order our drinks, and the following pronouncement is made: You sure have grown an awful lot this year. Not only are you taller, but I can see that your heart has grown, too. (Point out 2-3 examples of empathetic behavior, consideration of people's feelings, good deeds etc, the kid has done in the past year.) In fact, your heart has grown so much that I think you are ready to become a Santa Claus.
You probably have noticed that most of the Santas you see are people dressed up like him. Some of your friends might have even told you that there is no Santa. A lot of children think that, because they aren't ready to BE a Santa yet, but YOU ARE. Tell me the best things about Santa. What does Santa get for all of his trouble? (Lead the kid from "cookies" to the good feeling of having done something for someone else.) Well, now YOU are ready to do your first job as a Santa!"
Make sure you maintain the proper conspiratorial tone. We then have the child choose someone they know--a neighbor, usually. The child's mission is to secretly, deviously, find out something that the person needs, and then provide it, wrap it, deliver it--and never reveal to the target where it came from. Being a Santa isn't about getting credit, you see. It's unselfish giving.
My oldest chose the "witch lady" on the corner. She really was horrible--had a fence around the house and would never let the kids go in and get a stray ball or Frisbee. She'd yell at them to play quieter, etc--a real pill. He noticed when we drove to school that she came out every morning to get her paper in bare feet, so he decided she needed slippers. So then he had to go spy and decide how big her feet were. He hid in the bushes one Saturday, and decided she was a medium. We went to Kmart and bought warm slippers. He wrapped them up, and tagged it "Merry Christmas from Santa."
After dinner one evening, he slipped down to her house, and slid the package under her driveway gate. The next morning, we watched her waddle out to get the paper, pick up the present, and go inside. My son was all excited, and couldn't wait to see what would happen next. The next morning, as we drove off, there she was, out getting her paper--wearing the slippers. He was ecstatic. I had to remind him that NO ONE could ever know what he did, or he wouldn't be a Santa.
Over the years, he chose a good number of targets, always coming up with a unique present just for them. One year, he polished up his bike, put a new seat on it, and gave it to one of our friend's daughters. These people were and are very poor. We did ask the dad if it was ok. The look on her face, when she saw the bike on the patio with a big bow on it, was almost as good as the look on my son's face.
When it came time for Son #2 to join the ranks, my oldest came along, and helped with the induction speech. They are both excellent gifters, by the way, and never felt that they had been lied to--because they were let in on the Secret of Being a Santa.
Shared by Lesley Rush in an internet posting
This year as I unpacked ornaments and decorations, I was flooded with many memories of Christmases past. The ones that stand out the most are not the presents I received but the experiences that we had together as a family.
As a child, I remember the annual outing to get a live tree from a family friend in Oregon. He planted and sold trees on his land and he generously offered our family the opportunity to cut our own tree for free from one of the second-growths that sprouted up from the stump.
One year, my three siblings and I accompanied my dad on a damp Saturday morning. As my dad tells the story, finding a suitable tree and sawing it down was not the biggest challenge. As we made our way back to the car along the muddy path, my brother Eric who was three, was having a difficult time keeping up. My dad, pulling the tree with one hand, grabbed my brother around the middle and lifted him up. Unfortunately, his boots remained stuck in the mud. For me, the highlight of the adventure was the retelling of the story to my mother back at home—how my dad had gotten all of us, the tree and even the boots safely back to the car.
Although we lived across the country from both sets of grandparents, we were able to spend some Christmases together with them. I remember the opportunities to spend time talking with them, the annual jigsaw puzzles, getting reacquainted with cousins, and eating the cookies and special Christmas treats.
One Christmas, we were in Plevna, Indiana with my paternal grandfather. My grandmother had been gone for several years and I am sure that it was a source of great happiness to have several of his children and their families spend the holidays together. On Christmas Eve, all of us cousins decided to bundle up and go caroling in the small town. I remember having a feeling of joy sharing carols with my grandfather’s neighbors who we had never met before. My dad reminded me that this was special because it was the last Christmas that my grandfather alive. I am glad that I helped to make it memorable.
The Christmas with my own children that stands out is the one we spent in Puerto Rico. The trip was to celebrate my parents’ sixty wedding anniversary which was in June. But December was when everyone was available. Renting a small villa with separate rooms for each family, we cooked meals in the outdoor kitchen and enjoyed the sounds of the tree frogs and tropical birds. We had our Christmas meal on a rooftop patio enjoying an incredible sunset. My Christmas wish that year was fulfilled as my children had the opportunity to spend time with and reconnect to their grandparents as young adults.
What memories will you be creating this holiday season?
I know at this time of year the sounds, smells and decorations of Christmas are everywhere. As a parent, there is pressure to make a perfect, magical experience. You want to create lasting memories and give your children the best gifts possible. Sometimes that means a lot of stress on you to get everything done. You may wonder how you can afford to buy all that their hearts’ desires or how you will possibly have enough time to fit everything in.
I want to tell you a secret. Every January, when your children come back to school, they tell me all about the Christmas holidays. I hear about the day that everyone stayed in their pajamas and watched favorite movies. They tell me about walking together in the freezing cold to get something at McDonalds. They remember driving around looking at the best decorated houses and having hot cocoa afterwards.
I hear about the morning that you didn’t have to go to work and how everyone snuggled together in your bed. Or about the days that they stayed at Grandma’s until you came back from work. They tell me about visiting cousins that they haven’t seen for a long time and how they stayed in a hotel with a pool. Sometimes, I hear about how they visited friends on New Year’s Eve and they got to stay awake until midnight. Or how it snowed and everyone had a huge snowball fight!
Usually they mention their presents, but for them Christmas is about you and your love, time, routines and feeling safe. You are their favorite gift!
(adapted from an Instagram post)