A Good Christmas Lie

I start off today’s post with a humble brag of sorts. You know the crazy Santa Pic of my daughter, Harper, shooting gang signs with Santa that was taken here in Los Angeles? If not, let me refresh your memory:
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Well… After the big sit down, I thought somebody else must see this. How often does Santa Claus do something like this? And so… I entered it in a number of Santa pic contests ranging from Ellen to The Red Tricycle, who never responded… But guess what? The Lebanon Enterprise, a small local newspaper, that services Marion County, Kentucky picked it up! I’ve never been to Kentucky, and I’ve never heard of Marion County. But after receiving this honor, I did a Wikipedia search and found that Marion County contains 19,820 people, was founded in 1834, and was named after a revolutionary officer named Francis Marion, who went by the nickname “Swamp Fox,” and was considered to be the father of guerrilla warfare.

In reading some of the requests and letters to the editor from those folks out in Lebanon, Kentucky, it appears that they would “like more WiFi service,” and would also like to see more “bowling alleys” and “movie theaters” in their area. I hear you. I hope your local city council does. In any case, I hope this picture helps amuse you until such a time that you receive the long-awaited and much requested bowling alleys.

Congrats to Harper and congrats to those folks out in Kentucky that got to see this hilarious portrait of “Santa and Child” on Christmas Eve.

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Before this hilarious, bone splitting, photo was taken, I encouraged Harper to ask Santa for her number one request… A bike. Which she did… And I did what most people do that have a small child, which was plant the seed of “the bike” in her mind and keep repeating it, so she wouldn’t go asking Santa for anything else. The last thing I need is a laundry list of crap I haven’t bought to contend with.

I was as calculating as Swamp Fox when she would start mentioning things like a Nintendo 3DS, and I would say things like, “Remember… You asked Santa for the pink bike. Don’t be wishy washy about it.” She would agree, and grew to a frenzy closer to Christmas when she would talk about the bike.

Cut to Christmas Eve. The bike is a gorgeous and pink. It’s been ordered off Amazon. The hubs (Erin) takes it out of the box and starts to assemble when the realization is made that the brakes are busted and the bike is a wash.

Great… What to do, now… I suggest we simply put the broken bike beneath the Christmas tree, then write a letter to Harper from Santa, telling her how Prancer is really clumsy and is always stepping on things, and so Prancer stepped on her bike and broke the brakes on it. “Then, we send this back, and get another one,” I tell Erin.

Erin thinks this is a bad idea, and says, “it would be better to tell Harper there is no Santa at all, then to fabricate this lie about a reindeer stepping on her stuff, which would make her feel unimportant.”

“Telling her there is no Santa on Christmas Day isn’t an option,” I tell him, and he agrees.

In the end, we found a bike at Toys R Us, that Erin was able to assemble. This took all of Christmas Eve, and gave me a bad feeling about Santa, who isn’t nearly as much fun as he seems in the picture of him that is currently being celebrated by the state of Kentucky.

Next year… I don’t know… If Santa is still a thing around here, he’s going to have to step up his game a little bit. He can’t just be the fun gang-sign-flashing Santa. He’s going to have to actually do some stuff… Like give us some better Wifi Connections. Some Movie Theaters. Some Bowling Alleys.

Waiting for Santa Claus… The Existential Crisis of a 7-year-old

This week, I took my seven-year-old daughter, Harper, to see Santa Claus. It was a Wednesday night, and because Christmas is still almost two weeks away, there was barely a line. I wasn’t standing too close, but I heard her tell him she wanted a pink bike, and then they sat down together and took this picture:

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As you can see, in this picture, they are acting like a couple of old friends… But secretly, she’s been questioning him.

A few days ago, I asked her what she wanted from Santa.

“Why do YOU want to know?” she asked me pointedly. “I thought it was just between me and him.”

“Because,” I told her, “I’m your mother and I want to know all about you. I like to know your Christmas list.”

Normally, the answer would’ve satisfied her, but this time, it didn’t…

“I’m not sure about Santa anymore,” she told me.

“Why not?”

“Because a boy at school said he’s made up. He said there’s no Santa.”

“That’s terrible,” I told her. “Why would he do that?”

“It made me think,” she said skeptically… “I remembered the time you told me about the Easter Bunny, and that really got to me.”

Ugh… the Easter Bunny. How I hate that stupid rabbit. I make no apologies about it. To the dismay and angry stares of honest adoring parents that want their children to believe in the magic of the Easter Bunny, I told Harper he was fake from the beginning.

“Look,” I told her at the time. “The Easter Bunny is creepy. He’s weird. His head is too big for his body. What does he do? Does he lay eggs? Does he hide eggs? Is there a chicken involved? He’s a creature invented solely for marketing… He’s not so much a hero as he is the manufacturer for Peeps.”

I thought I was being smart keeping her away from the dumb rabbit. But instead, it caused this deep existential crisis within her regarding holiday mascots.

“If the Easter Bunny isn’t real,” she told me this week, “I don’t see how Santa is real.”

It was like having Charles Darwin in a Sunday School class.

“They are nothing alike,” I told Harper, frantically searching for the right words. “Santa takes toys to kids. He cares about all children. The Easter Bunny just sits in malls and shows up at random parties to scare adults like me with his big weird head and his eyes that don’t blink.”

Harper looked at me with the same puzzled expression that other mothers have given me when I’ve explained my dislike for the Easter Bunny.

“Do YOU believe in Santa Claus?” she asked me. “Do YOU think he’s real?”

And here is where some people might take issue with my answer… Because instead of doling out a great explanation like… “Well, Santa might not be a real guy, but the spirit of giving is real, and so as we give and receive with open and thankful hearts, we keep his spirit alive…”

Instead of saying that… I decided to go the Jim Jones route and answer her this way:

“Yes, Harper. Santa Claus is completely real. I don’t doubt it for a second. I believe it completely and I can’t wait to put out the cookies and milk and the reindeer food on Christmas Eve…”

“Okay,” Harper said quietly. “I believe you.”

But as I stepped away from our conversation, I had to ask myself… Was I telling her Santa was real for her or was it for me?

One of the best things about being a parent is that you get the opportunity to remember what it was like to be a child. There are many magical moments in childhood that you forget or you overlook… Until you have your own child… And then you remember them.

Sitting at the table with her on Christmas Eve while she drafts a letter to Santa…. We bake cookies and put out milk… Then she falls asleep while Erin and I stay up until two in the morning wrapping presents and putting toys together…

It has given us some crazy memories… Once we put together an over two-hundred piece doll house… It required Double-A Batteries and an engineering degree to assemble… The hubs and I nearly killed each other. I threatened to load the doll house into the car and drive it back to Toys R Us at three in the morning. But when Harper woke up one hour later, and the doll house was waiting for her… The look on her face made it worth it…

Sneaking around and watching Harper’s surprise on Christmas morning is fun and sweet. As excited as she is, though, I think I am more excited… And in a world that is grossly missing kindness and sweetness, it is a breath of joy.

My husband told me he felt I should’ve told her the truth when she asked. And really, I think I should’ve as well.

But… I wasn’t ready to let Santa go yet. I wasn’t ready to let “Tiny Harper” go either.

I was talking to my friend, Jolene, the other day… Jolene has three kids, and they are officially old enough now, so that they all know the truth about Santa… As I lamented this story to Jolene, she had this to say… “No one ever tells you when the last day of adventure will come. You have to make the most of those moments while they last.”

And she’s right… There is a last day for everything…. A final baby tooth to be pulled… A final day for the doll house… And of course, there is a final day for Santa Claus.

The French call the seventh year of a child’s life L’Age de Raison, or THE AGE OF REASON… This is where the questioning all begins, and Harper is right on track.

There are some tough questions around Santa and this might be his last year… So I will enjoy him greatly. Of course, our Christmas-to-comes will be filled with joy and excitement…. But, it’s hard for parents when they learn the truth about Santa.

 

Woman Inherits the Earth (or) What Happens When the Dinosaurs are all Women

“We tend to refer to some of the dinosaurs as male – Such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex; we call it a ‘him’ – but in fact they’re all female. And believe me, they can’t breed.”  –  Dr. Henry Wu, Chief Geneticist (Jurassic Park)

“We are becoming the men we always wanted to marry.”  – Gloria Steinem

 

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Today, dear students, we return to the text by which this blog originated… It has been some time since I’ve written from the source that serves as our ultimate parenting model here on this site, the great parenting classic, JURASSIC PARK, which was where this blog originated.

After viewing the recently released trailer for JURASSIC WORLD, I knew a post about our holy text was due.

I encourage you to take moment and view the JURASSIC WORLD trailer in all its glory, paying particular attention to the fierce dinosaur and the gorgeous nerd-girl magnet, Chris Pratt.

I know very little about the new movie, JURASSIC WORLD, but I was excited by Chris Pratt’s line: “She’s a highly intelligent animal. She will kill anything that moves.’

This lets me know that JURASSIC WORLD will continue the tradition of the previous volumes with an all-female park, where the most vicious and beautiful creatures are ALL WOMEN.

This is the formula for Jurassic Park… The scientists involved in planning the paradise park always underestimate the power of the female dinosaurs. They think they can control them.

In the end, though, not only are these women smart enough to figure their way out of the park… But they actually find a way around the breeding, and create more and more dinosaurs… Effectively making Jurassic Park a lovely community of single mothers, defending their young, and carving a place outside of the smart and methodical men controlling them.

This is why today we will focus on the strength of the Single Mother.

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I was reminded of the most memorable single-mother I ever knew when I was a kid. Her name was Jolene Dickson. She had a small house on the outskirts of Rotan, Texas, Population 1,547.

I befriended her daughter, Tammy, when I was eleven. Tammy and I would ride our bikes around town. We’d watch Friday Night Videos and deep-fry canned biscuits, dip them in sugar, dance around the house to Boy George, then practice French Kissing on pillows.

Jolene or Tammy never really talked about Tammy’s Dad, and I never met him. I remember one time Jolene was sitting with my mother in our house talking, and she said:

“People always tell me they’re sorry about my divorce. I tell them, you ought to be sorry about my wedding. That divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me. If I could re-do it, I would’ve set up a receiving table and served thin mints and Devils Food Cake the day of that divorce, but I was too damn exhausted from the marriage. So, I just ate pizza and thanked God for my freedom.”

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Since I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen a number of my friends move in-and-out of marriages. I have several friends who are single moms. So… When I decided to do this blog post, I contacted a few them and they were happy to talk to me.

When I spoke to these awesome moms, what I found was not only a recipe for success as a single parent… But a recipe for success in life. I will share the wisdom I’ve garnered with you now, and you can pass it on to your young.

1) It is okay to ask for help.

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My friend, Susan, who is a trial attorney, was in a tough spot when she became the primary custodian of her seven-year-old. Up until that time, she had been self-sufficient, but when she had to financially support her home with little to no help from her ex-husband, the cost of a full-time nanny to help her out with last-minute problems was too much.

“I had to rely on my friends and my mom,” she said. “I was always a person that was in charge… Could do everything myself. I felt helpless and embarrassed at first, like I was a burden on my friends.”

Susan said one day she had a revelation that changed the way she viewed her life. “I became a person who needed help. I had really always needed help, I just never admitted it. And I provided something for someone else… The opportunity to give… If a person tells me ‘no’ I can accept that. But many people are looking for ways to give, and I offered them an opportunity to do that. I think I got caught up in my marriage, not realizing how much I needed other people. When I became a single mom, I couldn’t help but need them.”

Reading Susan’s story I was reminded of the security breach in Jurassic Park. When Dennis Nedry, the duplicitous computer scientist, shuts down the park’s security system, and drives in a rainstorm to deliver dinosaur embryos to a competitor, he wrecks his jeep, and faces off with one Dilophosaurus.

He laughs at it, backing up slowly… In fear, the creature spits goo in his eyes…

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What Nedry doesn’t realize is that Dilophosauruses understand the mentality of single motherhood. Quickly two others appear to the aid of the first, and with little effort, they gut him using their sharp hook-like talons.

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There’s strength in numbers. Asking for help is a good thing.

2) Create your own identity

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One of the most interesting women I spoke to about this was a friend of mine from college named Spider. Interestingly enough, when I knew Spider some years ago, that wasn’t her name. Her name was something more girly and I’m not going to use it, as she doesn’t use it anymore. Spider changed her name after her divorce, and I always wondered if it had to do with her new role as a single parent, and she told me it did.

“The decision to change my name is very much connected to being a single parent. When my husband left, without warning, it felt like an end; an end to my life as I knew it. I knew I wanted to – had to start a new life, a life of being strong and independent, of being the mother my children needed and the woman I wanted to become. Spider embodied all that I wanted to be; strong, but playful.”

Spider took on her new role fiercely.

“I am always, always on. I am the only person responsible for dealing with kid raising, which means a great deal more pressure to always make the right choice or have the right response…to which eventually I have had to acknowledge that I am human, and will make mistakes. I make a habit of apologizing to my kids when I do fail to handle things perfectly all the time….Having the kids all the time, on my own, means that I have to forgive myself for sometimes falling down – because I’m sick, or tired, or emotionally done – and forgive that in those times, the kids have more electronic time than I would prefer, and the chores don’t get done. In addition, there are a lot of things I did as the stay-at-home mother that have simply had to fall off my list or become less frequent– baking, hosting parties for the kids, helping out other mothers.”

Asking for help… Forgiving yourself… So far, these are life lessons I can use.

3) Be proud of who you are:

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My friend Jennifer, a brilliantly witty writer who divorced after fifteen years of marriage and two kids had this to say:

“After my divorce, a part of me was excited about dating again… But suddenly, I began to panic. I wasn’t twenty-years-old anymore. My body didn’t feel the way it used to. A lot of the confidence I’d had was gone. I wasn’t tan or in great shape. I’d spent years singing Old MacDonald in the dark, and rarely shaving my legs… I faced a large and expensive battle with my ex-husband and I emerged like a shriveled white cave worm, crawling to light… I’d even developed something called a Uterine Hernia… My Uterus was literally starting to fall out of my body… I was reminded of the words of actress Olivia Wilde, who lamented her first marriage publicly, when she announced… ‘That man has killed my vagina.’

I remember saying at the time… ‘I married a Tax Attorney who murdered my vagina and then used it as a home-office tax write-off.’

But I got back on my feet. I bought a new razor, pulled up my uterus, and started to meditate and drink more green tea.

I am proud of who I am now. I may not be twenty-two anymore… But I have some things most twenty-two year-olds don’t have… And I’m NOT talking about my stretch marks or my sagging uterus. I have a sense of humor. I have a LOT of common sense and also book sense. I know I’m not as neurotic as I used to be. I know what is really important in life. I still sing Old MacDonald in the dark. But this cave worm has become a butterfly… Or at least a moth.”

4) Don’t let someone else determine your worth.

I’ve been close to my friend Johanna since childhood. Johanna became the primary parent for both her children when they were still toddlers and she faced most of her battles alone.

“Most teachers/daycare employees always treated me like I was some dumb pregnant teen that had no clue. There were undertones in conversations… Like here’s the mom who isn’t going to pay her bill on time or remember her kids’ lunch money. I hated that! With time, most of them realized they had stereotyped me. Let’s face it, you can look at any parent, single or not, and name at least a few things wrong with their parenting style.”

In fact, three of the five mothers I interviewed expressed this same obstacle when dealing with childcare workers underestimating them.

Johanna goes on to say… “But really, at the end of the day, it’s made me a stronger more confident person. It’s made me better… more appreciative of the little things.”

5) Endure the race.

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My friend, and fellow Jurassic Mom, Jessica, caught my eye last month when she successfully completed a half-marathon. It wasn’t any average race, though, this was a twelve-and-a-half mile zombie run… A run where zombies chased her all the way to the finish line.

Years ago, when Jessica’s marriage ended unexpectedly, she was left as the near sole-custodian of her two elementary-school-aged boys. Jessica had never finished her degree, and when she became a single parent she felt the need to finish it more than ever. The amount of endurance was intense.

“I had to keep pushing forward regardless of no money and no support. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about a myriad of problems that most people take for granted. I just kept going, regardless of whether or not I was tired. I had papers due. I was working one full-time job, and one part-time job. My son had entered his teenage years, and once I got a call at three AM and had to go hit the streets looking for him. The next morning, I got up after an hour of sleep, took a test, and went to work. I was proud of myself the day I graduated with a degree in Justice Administration.”

I asked her if she thought about any of those thing when she completed her Zombie Run.

“It was incredibly cathartic for me. I was never a runner, or a person who had time to exercise. But when I started running… I had to concentrate, to focus. I thought of so many things I’d accomplished as I ran. I thought of the endurance it took and how I had taken the challenge and succeeded. Running a long distance is 90% mind and 10% body. So is single parenting. At some points you feel like you are going to break, but you have to keep going. You have to move onto the next day… I’ve outrun a lot of zombies in my life.”

In THE LOST WORLD, the second volume in the JURASSIC PARK series, Michael Crichton writes, “For our own species, evolution occurs mostly through our behavior. We innovate new behavior to adapt.”

Outrunning zombies. Establishing a powerful super-identity. Laughing at yourself and appreciating who you are. Refusing to let another person determine your worth… Some of these innovations might be unique, but these are the ingredients for a powerful and adventurous life.

In closing, let me just say:

God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs. Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.

Amen.