11 November 2008


First of all, karma bit me in the ass re: the kids being well. Riley is, in fact, much better, but Maddie seems a bit worse. She coughed so hard after I put her to bed last night that the vomited. Poor baby! I got her (and me) cleaned up, but it was scary for her and for Riley. We had a family snuggle on the couch and the kiddos were asleep by about 8:30. I was asleep by about 8:45. Too bad we were all up for 1.5 hours in the middle of the night due to another coughing fit from the Mads. At least this time I got to her before she got sick and got her sitting upright for a few minutes to "drain." Coughs are so awful. They just linger and linger and linger and linger . . . I'm thinking both kids will be well just in time for our schedules to get all messed up by going to Detroit for Thanksgiving.

Oh, right, did I mention that we're going to Detroit to see John's family for Thanksgiving? Yeah, we are. I have a lot to say about that. I will save it for another post.

Skipping ahead in the holiday lineup, what's on my mind today is Christmas and my Poor Holiday Attitude.

Christmas was a big deal growing up at my house. We had a huge tree, lots of presents, and lots of great traditions around food and friends and family. It was not a religious holiday for us (although my mom is adamant that Christmas never be written as X-Mas because X is no substitute for Christ). Christmas was a celebration of time together and the joy of giving. My mom is an excellent gift-giver. She always finds perfect things to give, and she gets great pleasure out of the whole ritual. I did, too, for a long time.

But, as the years have gone on, I find that gifting brings me pretty much no joy. John and I didn't give each other gifts. He was insanely hard to buy for and what we really enjoyed was spending time together. We have a small condo, so the last thing we need is more stuff. Pre-kids, our practice for holidays and birthdays was to go out for a really nice meal and/or spend the weekend away, usually in Portland, Maine. We'd often buy something for the house: a piece of art, some new dishware, a replacement for something that was old or worn-out. We gave each other cards. We bought gifts for our families, but both of us would have been happy to let that fall by the wayside, too.

Holidays are different when you have kids. John and I only shared one Christmas with the twins. They were six months old. John was very, very sick. In fact, Christmas 2006 was the beginning of the end for John. To add to the fun, I ended up getting sicker than I've been in years. We did not travel to see either of our families that year; we wanted to be in our own home to celebrate what we knew would be our only Christmas as a foursome. I think we got a little tree, but I can't remember for sure. We had boxes of gifts for the kids from their grandparents. I don't think John and I got Maddie and Riley anything and I know we didn't exchange gifts with each other because, as previously noted, we didn't do that. I remember taking a walk on Christmas day in insanely warm weather. I remember feeling resentful that John could not help out more with the babies, and I remember being guilty for being resentful. It was not a happy time.

The next year, last year, I took the kids to Oregon to see my family. My dad helped us out with the travel. It went OK, but the trip was really hard. Sleeping was terrible and, in fact, that trip ushered in the era of Poor Toddler Sleep from which we really have yet to emerge a year after the fact. It was good to be home, but mostly I have bleary memories of sleep-deprivation and running from one activity to another with children who were always on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I totally boycotted gift-giving and card-sending, using recent widowhood as an excuse for my Grinch-like attitude. Once again, not a happy time.

This year, we'll be back in Oregon. I'm hopeful that being a year older, more verbal, and more emotionally mature, the kids will handle the travel better. I'm hopeful that a year further along in my grief process, I'll do better, too. But the past two Christmases have both marked the beginning of months-long dark periods in my life, and I'm thus fearful that this year will be the same. I worry about what kind of special hell will get kicked off this year. 2006 was Spousal Death March. 2007 was Sleep Boycott. 2008? We'll know in a couple of months. Ever optimistic (not that you'd know it from this post), I would like to believe that this is the year that we Turn It All Around. Please. Please? Please!

And then there's the gift issue. The twins have an awareness about what gifts are and love to receive packages and goodies. Their joy and delight in the process has helped me see that gift-giving can be fun, and I enjoy buying things for them in a way that I haven't for some time. But like many/most/all parents, I worry about how to set limits and teach Maddie and Riley that gifts are to be appreciated and enjoyed, but not expected. Since the message of Christmas is not religious for me, I need to think of how to explain why they will be showered with gifts on a random day in December. I need to think about how to rein in the commercialism, since the commercialism is one of the things that most bothers me about Christmas. And I need to decide if any of the gifts the twins do get will be from Santa.

John was anti-Santa in an almost venomous way. He was also anti-Easter Bunny and anti-Tooth Fairy. He was very clear that it was not OK with him for us to foster a belief an any of these entities. To be frank, I don't remember the details of his opposition, but I can practically feel the strength of his conviction, and I need to think about how and if to honor that. I'm totally ambivalent about Santa, really, but do I want M&R to be the kids destroying the Santa myth for their playmates when they get older? Would they enjoy the idea of Santa, and, if so, do I have a real reason to keep that joy from them? Would getting surprises from Mama be just as good, or does the Santa myth make it all better?

It all just makes me want to put my head under a pillow and wake up in 2009. It all seems like so much effort, and these days I'm hard-pressed to find the energy to make it through the needs of the day. I know the holidays are a hard time for a lot of people, and these past couple of years have given me an insight as to why that is. Not only do I need to think about creating our own family holiday traditions, but I have to do that without John. I'm struggling a lot these days with anger and resentment about not having the life I thought I was going to have. While I've been moving forward in some really positive ways, grief is definitely a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of process, and I feel very weighty these days. Sick, sleepless babies don't help, I'm afraid.

Speaking of the sick ones, time to go home and find them something for dinner, get them washed up, and hope they sleep tonight, for all of our sakes.

Your musings on the holidays are welcome and appreciated in the comments or via e-mail, especially if you have thoughts on how to skip Christmas entirely. Ha!


tinshee said...

I was raised Jewish in an area where almost everyone was Christian. My cousins were Christian and we spent Christmas with their family. My immediate family didn't "do" Santa, but my cousins and most of my friends did.

My parents let us know from a very early age that, just because our family didn't believe in Santa, it was not our right to "ruin" it for other kids. In fact, there is a story that is now lore in our family about how, when I was in first grade, I got into a huge argument with an older boy at the bus stop. He had told one of the other little girls that there was no Santa, and I reamed him out, telling him "You don't have the right to ruin what other people believe!" :)

Anyway... I just wanted to share that, in case you do decide to forgo Santa- there are ways to do it without making your kids the spoil-sport for others. :)

Kori said...

We love and perpetuate the Santa myth, and oftentimes those are the only gifts the kids get that are not ultra-practical. I never go to Wal-Mart (okay, like one in three years or something like that) ans we don't do tv at all other than DVD's, so we can escape the commercialism to an extent, which help. I don't have any advice, other than to try to find your own tradition with the twins. The fact that you can't quite recall John's objections would make it silly to honor them, IMHO, and I would imagine there are lotf more sonderful things about him to honor than whether or not he wanted to kids to learn about mythical gift givers. That's my two cents, anyway.

kathleen999 said...

For your trip...,make sure you arrange in advance for your mom to give you a nap-break every day even if the kids don't nap. Because you will need it with them sleeping in a different place.

If you still have cribs (can't remember) make sure you borrow or rent them for the duration. It will save your sanity.

Make sure you line up volunteers from among family/friends...one or two people per event to watch one of the kids. If you try to watch both of them yourself at each event, you will have no fun, be completely frazzled, and feel resentful. Been there. Not doing it again. Apparently no one ever thought I might like to eat or have any kind of a break or even a conversation. Never going for the holidays again until my twins are old enough to not be watched every second. And last Christmas my boys had just turned 3. Yours will definitely keep your running, especially when you go to someone's house that is not babyproofed. Which is pretty much everywhere.

Cobblestone said...

Christmas falls right in my Season of Discontent {all of the good and bad of life with my John in 12 weeks PLUS holidays}. Seven years after his death I have only really had 2 Christmases that didn't have the f-bomb between Merry and Christmas.

Personally, I just pretty much boycotted a couple, then strived for neutral for a couple, then picked my favorite parts and that is where I'm at now.

The baby will be 4 months for this Christmas so I'm not too worried about this one or the next and hopefully by then I can figure out what traditions to include.

Good luck.

Denise said...

Oh, the Santa debate! We have gone through that too. My mother-in-law's reaction is here. if you're interested. (Sorry if that's inappropriate to include a link.) We just sort of avoid the topic of Santa. It's not that hard. As Tinshee said, there are plenty of Jewish and Muslim kids out there who don't believe, and yet Christmas goes on. As an experiment, though, I asked my son whether the Hulk was real--"No." "Is Superman real?" "No." "Is Santa real?" "Yes." Peer pressure seems to have more of an effect than parental instruction.

Susan said...

Snick - holidays! This year won't be as hard as when the twins get older with the commercialism. They won't notice it much. Or at least you can control it. That gets harder as they get bigger. You are right that you need to start your own traditions. And that entails deciding what to do about Santa. Santa is fun....Santa can bring one gift and mommy can bring one gift. Or something like that. Your twins are still young but you could pick a charity of choice and shop w/twins to pick something out for needy children. We actually do the shoebox ministry where you fill shoeboxes and they are sent over seas to very poor areas of the world. There is so many.

I also suggested strongly to family members when the kids were young that bonds (not sure if that is good today) or sometype of investment for the kids versus gifts. That is hard on grandparents so I would ask for one gift and then the rest on the investment party. College funding, whatever.

Your joy for the holiday will come back.....I don't walk in your shoes but it all sounds normal for what you have experienced.

Baking......I tried to encompass that with the kids too, making Christmas cookies. Of course, you have to be in the right mood :)


Career Annie said...

My father died when I was 5, and my mother felt (still feels) the same way you do about holidays.

Here is my advice from watching her:
Do whatever you want. If you feel the need to be festive, buy a roll of those Christmas cookies and make a few with the twins. But otherwise, relax. Kids don't need a tree. Give a few simple presents for Christmas morning, and don't worry about it. Holidays are bad enough without the compulsion to feel cheery.

Single Parent Dad said...

I've found Christmas tricky since Sam's death, but thinking about it, it was never straight forward anyway.

I was always told off for not being excited enough about my presents, and my answer of don't buy me anything then, never went down well.

Since it has just been me and Max, I've worried a lot about keeping the grandparents happy, and I think last year it actually contributed to my son being poorly.

This year I'm doing it all on my terms, and I'm not going anywhere.

My advice, would be do what you think is best for you and those twins.

elizabeth said...

You raise some great questions.

We're going with Santa as fiction here. He's real in the sense that Mickey Mouse is real; a character, of sorts. My son hasn't asked for a lot of details yet, but I plan to say something along the lines of "we are all Santa Claus helping each other enjoy the season." Although, if you don't even want to go that far, tinshee's comment sounds great.

On that note, we are also expressing Susan's ideas of service and charity. The best way for us to avoid the commercialism has been to focus on the *giving* aspect.

Heather said...

My family is Jewish and my kids always knew that Santa didn't visit us but that they got gifts from the family. I emphasized that this was *better* because they could tell family members what they wanted as opposed to *hoping* that Santa got the message. OK and good. Then, when my son (older child) was about three, he got 'angry' that Santa didn't visit us. I told him the truth, that Santa wasn't real but that it was a secret that only grown-ups knew. I was trusting him to not tell his friends because I was treating him like a big kid and he didn't want to make his friends sad. He NEVER betrayed that trust. When his friends would talk about Santa, he would express interest and excitement. In a quiet moment, he would give me a little nod so I knew that he knew.

Annie said...

So many good comments already ! I like the idea's expressed so far:
do what you want
don't feel compelled to be "cheery"
buy presents from Mom and presents from Santa...something extra special from John? I hope having family around will make it better for you.

SupersammyG said...

I think you are in bit of bind in the Sant dept. I guess you just need to feel it out. I would say you have another year to really make a choice of either pro or anti santa as I don't think the twins will really get it this year. Also you may want to think about whether John would have changed his mind about Santa, perhaps he would have mellowed in his stance as he saw how much fun the twins might have with the idea.
In my family we always got a book from Santa and I think one or two gifts. We were never a whole pile of gifts type of family. We always did an advent calender which I still love to do. My sister and I took turns opening the door each day and the gifts were always little and not much it just made the month of dec. a little more fun. This could help with getting in the mood as there would be something to look forward to each day. There are some nice ones with chocolate that you can pick up. Also you could consider Santa being in charge of the stockings. This again was always a small gifts and some food items. I love my stocking and it is one of the things I look forward to on christmas morning. We each have a traditional food that we get in it (I get borsin cheese and rice crackers...we were not allowed candy as kids)and an ornament. When Shazam and I moved in with each other my mom gave me my ornaments and I have one form each year of my life each one kind of reflected my interests of the year or a trip we took so it is great to put the tree up and remember all the years. That may be fun. Stockings are fun and can be really anti consumer as you could do all homemade ect. As for a charity choice my extended family has always done Heifer Project. We put the money we would have spent for gifts together and let the kids pick out the animals we will buy. Since the twins just went to the farm it would be a good connection. There are pretty cheap items like chicks about 25 bucks and then larger items like a cow for 500. The catalog is really cool and has nice pictures so the kids could see what they are giving.

Julie said...

I was having a bad day until I read your post. It reminded me that what's truly important during the holidays is having your loved ones near. I lost my dad two years ago so holidays are bittersweet for me too. Thank you for sharing.

Karen said...

It was really important to me to continue traditions and "do up" the holidays after my mother's death. I had a younger sibling who needed stability and knowledge that life goes on.

Of course, things don't have to stressful, but it unfair for the little ones to be denied a holiday. I know your little ones might be too little to know the difference, but maybe not.

I am not a parent, so take my opinion for what is worth, but Santa is part of the magic of the holiday for kids. Don't deny them that. :)

Anonymous said...

Santa-wise, we've taken the approach of "I don't know if it's true or not, but the way the story goes is that Santa brings presents for little kids..." When she directly asks us if Santa is real, we don't give a specific answer. "Some people think he is, some people think he isn't." Good luck...

Anonymous said...

Oh, please let the children enjoy such a special time of the year and Santa. The sparkle in my daughters eyes (she is now 2 and kinda gets it) is something I will cherish forever. I understand what you mean about being too comercial but my idea is to foster a sense of helping others during this time and also doing some type of "santa's helper" as they get older and can understand. My sister just did a coat drive with her 7 and 9 year old (30 coats!!) and the look on my neices face when she realized - actually SAW all the people waiting in line to get coats for their kids was so important to her long term well being. Kids need to understand how fortuante they are and how to help others. That is just my two cents on that -- try to find a way to give the best of all worlds when it comes to christmas. Regarding travel - good luck to you sister - UG! I find that it gets harder as she gets older - I have a 7 month old that is SO EASY compared to the just turned 2! Lastly, I am from Portland Maine and I love it there -- ever done the Old Port Crawl? Great memories from when I turned 21 :). Maggie

Snickollet said...

Oh, I love some of these ideas so far. You guys are giving me some great solutions. Keep 'em coming.


G Love said...

I am a Christmas junkie, so my comment is colored with that perspective.

Maybe you could do an angel tree gift with the kids? Your mall or somewhere around will probably have one, and you can make a big deal out of that. It puts their focus on giving instead of getting, maybe? Or instead of writing lists to Santa of what they want, have them come up with a list for each other. Like - Riley, what should we ask for Santa/grandma to bring Maddie? Again maybe that puts the focus on others (I guess that could go down way cute or wayyyyy bad.)

I love Santa, the Easter Bunny, all of the myths. Our kid will be a wholehearted believer in Santa - it's part of the magic for me. But that's a personal parenting choice, and I guess if you aren't feelin' it you can't fake it!

And, I second the "roll of Christmas cookies" thing. I love me some Christmas, but I am also pressed for time. I dig shortcuts.

Anonymous said...

I was very uncomfortable with the whole Santa thing, but my husband was ADAMANT that his children believe in Santa, because I guess it held magical memories for him. I guess I didn't have the same memories. Being by far the youngest, I guess my siblings probably destroyed any belief in Santa I might have had. I don't know, I just don't remember believing.

I relented, somewhat reluctantly. But honestly, my kids get so much joy out of believing in this jolly creature who comes and brings them presents that I'm sort of glad we did it. Now, my son is seven and still professes to believe utterly in Santa. He's got to start realizing soon that there is no Santa, and I dread that, and maybe will regret having perpetuated this myth if it goes badly, but I promote it as much as my husband does. Christmas is an absolutely magical time in our family, always has been for me, and it is wonderful to see how excited the kids get, and believing in Santa definitely plays a role.

As for the gifts, it is very hard to keep it under control. Our families go crazy, and every year I swear I am not going to go overboard, and then I always do. Economic reality will rein it in this year, I think.

I think you will find Christmas more manageable and fun as the kids get older. I bet this year will be the turning point. But make sure you have some time for some standing under the mistletoe with Mr. Coffee.


Rev Dr Mom said...

Christmas is not a completely happy time for me--I had a string of emotionally difficult Christmases and it's hard to feel the joy the same way I once did. Plus the over commercialization and the insane way every thing starts so early (argh) makes it worse.

Obviously Christmas IS a religious holiday so I try to hold onto that, and celebrating the 12 days of Christmas. I put the tree up late and take it down late. I have lots of Advent calendars. And now I work insanely hard during Christmas so I don't have as much time to think about it.

I think that you should try to develop some traditions that are just for you and Maddie and Riley. Most kids do enjoy Santa, and both as a kid and as a parent I kept some of the Santa tradition long after no one really believed--e.g., hanging stockings, one special gift from Santa.

I tried to save the really big things the kids got (bikes, etc) to be special things they got for Christmas. I never had enough money to over indulge as much as some people, but the kids always had enough for it to feel like a special time.

And I really like the idea of emphasizing giving to others, too--both families, and to those who may not have any Christmas otherwise.

BTW, does your mother know that the X in Xmas is the Greek letter chi which is the first letter in Christus--Greek for Christ? I don't really like Xmas myself, but there is some logic behind it.

Rev Dr Mom said...

I meant to say Christmas is a religious holiday TO ME...duh.

Elaine said...

My parents never bought completely into the Santa myth. If we asked if he was real they said, "He is the spirit of Christmas," which annoyed me the way answers of "EVERY day is children's day" bugged me when I asked why there wasn't a Children's Day. We always knew our presents were from them and I don't recall it bothering me at all. We played lots of other pretend games so I had plenty of imagination in my life and never felt deprived. My mother's principle was that she would never lie to us kids. (It was also her reason for not taking us to church, which all of us now regret a bit, mainly for cultural reasons, but whatever.)

We also did the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny, but all of it was tongue-in-cheek. In fact, my mother's messages from the Tooth Fairy, who evolved into somebody called "Toothena Fangymouth," were classics which we enjoyed tremendously for the creativity even though we knew for sure it was her. Maybe you could make some sort of Santa compromise like this, so the kids could enjoy the whimsy of it and the wit, and it could be a creative thing rather than simply commercial? (Admittedly, this wouldn't kick in until they were a lot older, but...)

Erin said...

Of course there is a Santa Claus! I still believe. He is what I love so much about Christmas. He is the spirit of giving - and please don't confuse that with the stress/spirit of buying. They are completely different things and I think sometimes we forget that. Just my 2¢;)

Mary Britton said...

My mom passed away two years ago and the holidays are extremely hard, but I know that she would want us to carry on family traditions she was teaching us all along. My sisters and I are all in our twenties so we're beyond Santa, but our other traditions remain important. We cook the same dishes we made with mom for our dad and give each other small, homemade gifts. We spend a good part of the holidays crying and while it's sad, I know she would be proud to see us all together, cooking in the kitchen, and caring for each other. I try to remember it's ok to be sad...I don't have to put on a happy face. Christmas will never be the same, but I always feel her there with me.

twingles said...

Well, I'm a cradle Catholic so Christmas is religious for me, but it's become so secularized that I think you you can't go wrong no matter how you do it. First off, you honor John in so many ways that if YOU want to do the Santa thing in some way, don't feel bad about it. If you don't like the idea of "lying" to your kids about it, you can always do the whole "we are all Santa" or "Santa is the spirit of giving" thing. Also, a good way to get your kids on board with not going overboard with selfishness at this time of year is to buy toys for Toys for Tots or some other similar charity. My kids enjoy that and it ties in nicely with the "spirit of Santa".
My twins are 8 and my DD is 4 1/2, and although they have flat-out asked me if there is really a Santa, I am not ready to go down that road yet. So I just say "how do you think all those presents got here on Christmas". A classic non-answer, right?!
Anyway - your duo are still little so no need to worry too much this year.

Oh - one more tip - it's all about the wrapping paper. You could wrap up 10 $5 gifts, and they'd be happy!

BethGo said...

I have not really read any responses here but I am having an intense knee-jerk reaction here.
I am wondering why on earth you are traveling with your kids during the holidays. As if the holidays weren't stressful enough.
And I remember all the posts about your in-laws... and you're visiting them for Thanksgiving????
Girl...make everybody come to you.
As far as gifts and how much to give, I really can't say as I love to give gifts.
Do what is right for you.

And now, WHY are you going to your in-laws for turkey day and will you have a place of your own to get away from the craziness?
Please tell us more and...
take care of yourself.

ashleyjnc said...

Just to let you know, I was one of those kids without the belief in santa, my grandma was a hag and ruined it when I was 4. I envied my friend's blind belief, and their thoughts that I was crazy when I would meanly say there was no santa, because I hated not being able to take part in their joy. It's almost like robbing a child of ALL the Christmas joy. So, barring some unforeseen conviction (which you don't seem to have) I would let them believe and delight in the joy.

The one on the "other" side.

Anonymous said...

Please at some point learn to be grateful for what you do have: 2 kids from John, 2 living parents whom ynu see fairly fairly frequently, tons of really SUPPORTIVE friends, a great job, a safe, warm. dry home, pleanty of food to eat, health insurance, apparently discressionary money. Perhaps to get some perspective, you might volunteer at a homeless shelter, you may see things differently. Millions are having to choore btw. food and heating the homes they are about to lose. I work with these ppl. everyday. You have so much and don't even realise it. ---Marlene

Anonymous said...

"I'm struggling a lot these days with anger and resentment about not having the life I thought I was going to have"
This line really resonated with me.
I am very fortunate to have a husband and children but certain recent occurrences have me going through a type of grieving, i guess you could say, for the life i thought i would have but i now realize i dont. your writing really inspires me and give me hope and strength to continue on.
in terms of the holidays, i totally hear what you are saying. the only solution i can think of to skipping christmas is....convert to judaism? :)
but if you decide not to skip it...i think you could explain to your kids that december is a "happy" time, the new year is coming up, etc... and that when people are happy and feeling loving they like to give each other gifts, because we like to give to those we love. it doesnt have to be a material giving, of course, but im not sure how old kids are before they can grasp that concept.

Andrea said...

I know you didn't ask for advice regarding dealing with bad coughs, but here's mine anyway and you can feel free to ignore it! Try giving Maddie some honey before she goes to bed. There was even a scientific study that came out about a year ago showing that it worked just as well (or better if I remember correctly) than the cough medicines that have been taken off the market. It has worked for my 2 year old.

Regarding Santa, I was very bah-humbug about it until I met my husband and his family. Watching the nieces' and nephews' eyes light up has shown me that these traditions can be very fun. Now I'm looking forward to telling my almost two-year old about him, but we plan to take a very minimalist approach - probably just one gift from Santa and one or none from us. Hope you find a road that works for you!

Anonymous said...

I vote for keeping Santa... I still have such fond memories of waiting, waiting, waiting for him as a kid! My mom left a "note" from him thanking us for the cookies we had put out the night before. Loved the Easter Bunny too, as well as the Tooth Fairy. I don't remember being disappointed when I learned the truth.... instead, I just smile at the magic that was real when I was a kid. Another huge Christmas tradition.... making cut-out sugar cookies. We did it every year, and 30 years later I have my own collection and invite friends over to help. These traditions warm my heart every time I think of them...

Snickollet said...


If you honestly believe that I'm not grateful for what I have, you have not read my blog very carefully.

There's always someone who has it better and there's always someone who has it worse. What I do here in my blog is work on trying to make the most of what I have, even if it isn't always what I wanted. That's easier to do on some days than on others.

Your work sounds very inspiring and rewarding. I'm glad you've found your calling.


alice said...

I let the kids have their own little little tree. All their special school made ornaments go on this tree and we have made things at home. I think the little tree is very empowering because it is theirs.

I do think gift gluttony is overwhelming for a child. But your parents and John's love them and want to give things to your kids. If this is the case, why not identify practical things they need versus a bunch of little but overwhelming gifts. Examples include; ballet lessons, music lessons, keyboard...

I love simple traditions. We used to have this tradition where we would sit in front of a fire and eat chocolate together. It sounds silly but it was such a fun childhood memory and it was very low tech...parents made a fire and we hate hershey bars. Little kids love to cook. Maybe you can make gingerbread houses or cookies together...When children are little it doesn't take much. Usually their best memories relate to doing things together and a simple, yummy snack.


Anonymous said...

I too never wanted to lie about the whole Santa thing so I never pushed it. I would say 'some people believe' just as I say some people believe in religion and going to church.

Hoping the holidays with the in-laws goes smoothly and is relatively painless..

christie said...

I, um, well. I don't want to offer Santa advice or present advice (though I'm happy to know I am not the only mom who opted out of buying Christmas presents for babies under a year old). But I do want to say to YOU that you don't have to answer all these questions today. I don't know you and you might not care what I think - but I have been there with the toddler/mom sleeplessness and the tandem twin illness, and I just really hope you are getting a hug from a grownup every day. Two-and-a-half was HARD (my twins are now five-plus). Take care of yourself in small and big ways.

Anonymous said...

I, too, went through the Santa debate with myself when my oldest was a toddler. He's 12 now and figured it all out a few years ago on his own. My youngest is 4 and believes with all his heart, which adds so much joy to the season for him and for us too!

Don't deprive the twins of Santa! It makes the entire season so magical, it is part of growing their imaginations, and it's a rite of passage for kids (once they cross the threshold to a grown-up view). Let your twins be little and have Santa, because they will grow up all too fast anyway.

Though I decided to let my kids have Santa, I also decided that I would not do anything deliberate to prolong the belief once they began to question it on their own (ie., no fake reindeer prints in the snow, etc.). As soon as my oldest asked his first "Is he really real" question, I asked him if he really wanted an answer from me. That first year he asked me, he then said not to answer him (LOL, but you see how much this means to kids! He knew but he didn't want to know so he asked me to let him believe one last year by not answering him). The next year, he decided he truly wanted the answer, so I answered him honestly; there was no great trauma.

I always remind my kids that they can make gift wish lists but Santa does not bring everything they wish for (this is how I keep them grounded insofar as the commercialism goes).

That's my two cents. Hope it gives you something to consider.

Keen said...

My strategy is probably not a good one--I keep things from the boys because I figure they're too young to care yet. Heck, they're not even three. We did Halloween and had a blast with jack-'o-lanterns and trick-or-treating, and we'll do a wreath or even a little tree for Christmas, but I see no reason to make a big deal about Santa this year. I figure I have at least another year until I have to deal with that issue. They're pretty clueless about gifts, too, and while we might get them a couple of token gifts, that will probably be it.

I'm crossing my fingers for you for a happier 2009, one that is at the very least full of toddler sleep.

amanda said...

Since I believe you mentioned that John loved movies, how about a tradition of snuggling up with whoever in your family is around on Christmas day and watching movies. My husband and I started this tradition before we adopted and now our daughter (age 5) joins in, so the movies are more for her level. Also, we exchange gifts that we know the other one would love, which usually means my husband gets me something from an artist I love and I get him hockey tickets and make a big night of it at the rink as a family ( he too is v.hard to buy for). Santa brings our daughter only a few things and we put great thought into her gifts. We are relgious so I think it adds a whole other dimension to it that I would sorely miss if we didnt.
We also have a toys for tots tradition to keep her in check and to demonstrate how beinga secret Santa for someone else is a great feeling !
We started an ADvent calendar last year with a different animal for each day and she has played with them every day since. It was a way to give her a gift that spread out versus the big day of opening everything at once.


Anonymous said...

I recently overheard my almost grown children telling a friend that they still pretend to believe in Santa because they won't don't want to ruin it for their Mom who still believes in him. ;o)

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the others...Christmas can be a very magical time for little kids. If you don't even remember why John was against Santa then I see no harm in it all.

As for the gifts I know ppl who only give 3 gufts as that is all Jesus received from the wisemen. I also know ppl who give 1 "want", 1 "need", 1 thing to wear and 1 thing to read.

Good luck with your decisions

Katee "e-polishblog" said...

I know and understand how you feel about Christmas. For me it is not even really that important. I am not religious at all. I like seeing my family and having the time off of work but other than that I think all of the presents and santa is stupid. I mean, me and my family can afford to buy the things we want for ourselves during the year, so when Christmas time comes around it isn't like we *need* anything. So it is just a bunch of useless spending on more crap. This year we said NO presents. I know I'll end up getting a big check from my parents, and that is fine, but we are putting an end to all of the useless gifts.

Molly said...

These are heavy questions. I am struggling too with figuring out how we can make holidays special in a personal way, not in that "Santa and commercialism" way. The best way I have found so far is to spend time together, real time, no phone, no email, which is rare around these parts. Presents in moderation. And just to relax! That is what holidays are for!

Aimee said...

A few thoughts, though I may duplicate other's ideas because I'm not reading through the comments first.

RE: Santa, let the kids take the lead. My oldest daughter NEVER liked him and got kind of freaked the 2 years I tried to take her to visit him. So we decided to not press the issue. She knows he's associated with Christmas gifts and that's about it.

RE: gifts for the kids. Have you thought about getting them one big joint gift, such as an outdoor play yard or swing? I'm thinking of doing that because I just got rid of so many toys and outgrown clothes. I'm thinking of doing 3 to 5 medium to large toys (for example, the lizzle bouncy zebra for the 14 month old), then smaller items from the dollar bins at Target... Our kids have FIVE places to go for Christmas, so they get loaded down with loot. We are trying so hard to get people to cut back so our house doesn't look like Toys R Us puked all over it.

RE: Toys for others. Think of personal gifts... MyPublisher.com is a great site and you can make photo books/coffee table books from your favorite photos of the twins. They also do calendars and other gifts. I think they still have a coupon... if not, email me at wvgurl at yahoo dot com because I think I got a coupon to give a friend.

In the end, holidays are what you decide to make it for the kids. You can still do stuff with them to create memories... from picking out a real tree to decorating cookies (buy the pre-cut ones from Nestle's and cookie icing at your grocery store).

Aimee said...

Oooh! Oooh! I just thought of something... is there anywhere in your area that does the big light shows or exhibits? Where I live, some of the local parks decorate and one has Santa and a hot chocolate stand. This has been one of our little traditions that our little ones seem to enjoy.

me said...

I share your ambivalence about Christmas.

My 1st memory of Christmas is carrying my bother's presents back into his room, still wrapped with all the hope Christmas morning should have brought for a 2 1/2 year old. Instead he was a 2 1/2 year old fighting for his life due to an infection that caused his brain to swell and left him mildly mentally retarded and/or intellectually challenged depending on what the current buzz words are.

I was just barely 5 and looking back now that Christmas, that memory, marks the beginning of a mourning, a loss of a life I never got to have - A life with a "normal sibling"

So for years I hated Christmas, hated it with a passion. As time has passed I have a clarity of the gift I received that Christmas. The gift of knowing, so early that life was not all Santas and reindeer. In fact, quite frequently the reindeer blows snot on your head. But when that happens, even though you have a head full of snot, at least you know in the vicinity of Santa.

Maybe the best you can hope for this year is snotty reindeer. Sometimes it's enough to get you through.

Roads said...

Some pretty heavy Anonymous comments there. 'Just remember to be grateful for what you have.'

Well, well. Firstly I don't see this site as anything approaching a Pity-Fest. And secondly, I'd like to see Anonymous as the lone widowed and working mother of two tiny infant children and to ask her just how she felt then.

Except I wouldn't, because having lived it myself (as a father, not a mother, obviously) I really wouldn't wish that experience on anyone, not even Anonymous.

A decade on, and even in a new and happy life, Christmas isn't easy, because there always are regrets amongst the joys. There always will be, and I think you have to learn to cope with them. On the scale of how much you've gone through already, it's just one more inevitable that comes along with the territory.

I've often thought that we should get away and ignore Christmas altogether. But I've never come close to managing it.

Family won't really let you do this, in my experience, and it's not fair on the children, either.

So finally, I just go with the flow and suck it up. Each Christmas gets easier (I don't believe you're fated to suffer annual Yuletide disasters for eternity) and it's good to get a few days off work. The preparation and present buying, Christmas card writing -- you name it -- is daunting when you have to do it on your own. So don't put it off, but start out as early as you can. It pays to be organised, rather than exhausted when grief can overtake you.

Try to relax, as best you can. And remember that January will be here before you know it.

Best wishes from London. You're doing great.

Anonymous said...

I understand, and respect anyones decision to do what they want for the holidays. However, I agree with Maggie, please let them enjoy this special time of the year!

Also, thank you to all the Jewish families who keep our Santa secret alive for our children!

Amy said...


Great book that you might enjoy; the minister at my church did a workshop based off of it long ago and we've used many of the ideas in it ever since. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Unplug-the-Christmas-Machine/Jo-Robinson/e/9780688109615/?itm=1

It's called "Unplug the Christmas Machine" and gives many suggestions on ways to cut the commercialism out of christmas and make it more about being together with family and friends. Wonderful things for families and kids of all ages, so you might get ideas of things to do with the kids at their age now as well as for when they get older. Also, maybe you can find some things to suggest to your family that might make the whole holiday a bit easier for you.

As for Santa, we always went with the "Santa story" idea, not that he IS this person, but that it is the idea of Santa and the story of Santa that we love. Read the kids the book "Polar Express" many many years in a row, and promoted the idea that "Santa exists as long as you believe in the magic of Christmas". This seemed to resonate with my 3 kids and it was easy to keep them from ruining it for the younger ones as they aged because it was all about believing in the magic, not the man.

As for your feelings about the holiday and John's illness...my mom died from PC on Dec. 12, and I have no memories of that xmas 6 years ago. It's remained a hard time of year for me, and I find my sleep deteriorates as the days grow shorter, and a sadness descends. I fought the feeling for the first few years, but now I sort of expect it and even embrace it, if that makes any sense. I can liken it to pain--if something hurts on my body and I am panicked by it and fight it, the pain is actually worse than if I can breath with it and remember that it won't stay so intense. I know that the sadness will lift a bit after Christmas and that spring will come and I'll feel better, so the holiday is much more bearable knowing that. It does define the word "bittersweet" for me.

One last thing in this rambling comment...whatever you do decide about Christmas, it doesn't have to be for always. After the workshop I mentioned, we changed many of the ways we celebrated Christmas at our house, and the kids adapted to those changes at ages 5, 7 and 9. There've been a couple Christmases of late when we've gone skiing and left on Christmas Day and just had stockings, there's been others when we've traveled locally and then some where we just stayed in our pjs all day. There is value in having set traditions, but also value in having things be incredibly flexible from year to year. Once i gave myself permission to change tradition, it freed me from having expectations and disappointments that colored past Christmases.

Good luck Snick, and blessings to you and your children.


Jen said...

hey dude.. sorry you're in sick-kid-hell.. I was up with a cough-monster last night for a while.. poor kids!

Now.. Christmas.

I am totally and completely OBSESSED with christmas.. i LOVE it. I'm not religious, but I even love the religious holiday songs (my favorite is O Holy Night).. I would be happy if christmas lasted all year.

That said.. I have to struggle to maintain some control when it comes to gift giving and the santa thing. santa was a big source of joy and excitement for me when i was a child, but i do remember when i was nervous about letting my parents know that I KNEW that there was no santa because i was worried that it would mean that i wouldn't get gifts anymore. yeah.. i know.. i'm so materialistic!

anywho.. we are "doing the santa thing" with ben.. but we're trying to keep it sane. he'll get a stocking of gifts and a few items under the tree from santa, but the majority of gifts will come from us. my sister did it this way and i liked the approach.

i would go with what you feel comfortable with. if you truly want to hold onto john's belief that the kids not be raised to believe in santa.. then go with that.. just don't make a big deal of it. they are too young to have a "there is no such thing as santa" talk.. but if all of their gifts came from you and other family/friends.. they wouldn't know the difference. As they get older, you could let them know how different people believe different things and how the most important part is respecting other people's beliefs... i can't see either of the kids "ruining" it for others.

I had cousins that were a different religion and didn't believe in santa. as a result.. santa didn't come to their house. i was mortified.. but it never made me think that there might not be a santa.. i just thought they were missing out on so much for not believing. crazy.

anywho.. i'll email you more about christmas.. i wanted to let you know that the wife and i are available if you decide you want to do a tree or something and need some extra hands. we looked cooler when we had a pickup truck filled with christmas trees.. but alas, we can still keep up in our minivan.

btw.. 103.3 is playing holiday music non-stop already.. crazy!

Amy said...

I think that not doing Santa requires a pretty big committment and some strong sentiment behind it if you're living in a "mainstream" world. I am an agnostic but my family celebrates Christmas in a non religious way, including Santa. There have been numerous occasions that would have been awkward for me and confusing for my kids if we did not include Santa as part of our celebration. Now if someone feels very strongly against Santa, I can see how it would be worth it to put up with those difficult or uncomfortable situations but I think if you're kind of ambivalent about it, it would be far easier (and more fun for your kids) to just incorporate Santa into your Christmas, even if he just takes a more minor role than he might in other families. Maybe in your house Santa just does the stockings? You certainly don't have to go whole hog and go visit him (scary when the kids are 2 anyway) but down the road when Maddie and Riley are in preschool and early elementary school it might be a tough row to hoe to explain why you celebrate Christmas at your house but Santa doesn't go there.

That said, I know you're trying to honor John's memory, not just make things easy on yourself and I completely respect that. Whatever you decide to do, I hope this Christmas is one that brings you some joy!

kate said...

Oh, go with Santa! I was just reading the comments on here and my co-worker and I are wanting to decorate for Christmas now! I was raised to believe in Santa until my brother broke the news to me. I always remember Christmas being such a magical time. We have little traditions that we still do every year. We have a special dinner on Christmas Eve. I think half the fun of Christmas is the anticipation of the whole thing. Christmas Eve is more fun to me. As someone else said, I wonder if John's tune may have changed if he could see the excitement in the kids. You may actually start to enjoy the holidays if you see the joy in the kids faces. I'm a weirdo for Christmas though. I dated a Jewish guy and he talked to me about converting...I told my mom I could never give up Christmas!(It didn't work out between us!)

shiel said...

hey snick,

so when i grew up, there was such a weirdness with christmas that still exists to this day at my texas home. my mom loves christmas so very much. my father, well, he's the truest scrooge i've ever known. he could never decide whether to let my brother & i believe in santa or not, so he'd end up debating this out loud to us, which basically ruined it for us. so christmas wasn't anything too super special to me.

things have changed since the wife & i got together and i'm on the upswing of how i feel about it all, although i still have a hard time getting really excited about it. i enjoy cooking and having people over. the gift part though, is still something i struggle with.

yeah, the wife & i are doing the santa thing with ben, as you saw from her comment, but we're also trying very hard to keep it real, e.g., hoping to make sure that he knows where the REAL presents come from. "Santa" might bring him cutesy little things, but the items he truly wishes for will always come from us.

so all this is to say that most likely, mads and ri-man will help you out with this .. and knowing you, i'm positive that with time, you'll figure out this incredible way to fold john's wishes along with your own into the delicate mix of your life with the babies. not very profound, but there it is.

ann ominous said...

Hi Snickollet,

I think your post was really thought provoking. One of the things that I appreciate the most about what my parents did for me as a child was to read to me about the real St.Nicholas. Who he actually was. They got a library book and read the story about how this poor shy man wanted a way to give $ to the poor without them knowing that it was from him...and thus the spirit of giving gifts at Christmas was born. It's a great story if you can find it and I think if you can read it to your kids and start talking to them about 'sharing the love' at Christmas time. It can lay a foundation for future good things. Perhaps read them the story and then help them pick out a small gift to donate to the toy drive so that they get to help give too? If it's not in your budget, perhpas they could make a card for a kid in the hospital...something like that. I don't think that there's an age-requirement for starting to help them understand things like that.

I dont know...just a thought about how to keep the commercialism out of Christmas. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey Snick,

I too had been pretty heavily against telling the kids about Santa, but our babysitter told them about him last year before I could "warn" her. I was pretty miffed, but now that I see how much they love it, I've come around to the idea. I still try to emphasize the giving aspect of the holiday, but I play along with the Santa thing and their eyes just light up.

Just to say that we all can change our minds sometimes.

P.S. Hope the kids are feeling better soon - I just got done dealing with simultaneous projectile vomiting with N and D!

Hang in there!

spoiledonlychild said...

Oh,the holidays. Cringe! I have a living spouse, and I still just dread them. I always imagine this joyful family time and end up instead broke, stressed out and fighting with my husband. I think the holidays are really hard for most people, even though some won't admit it.

As for Santa, I think you should let them have that fun. One thing that makes Christmas more than just getting presents is that belief in magic. I still remember the feeling of excitement at the idea that reindeer would be landing on the roof and Santa would be eating the cookies I put out for him. It means a lot more than, "Mom went to Target and got you this stuff."

Dee said...

I struggled with telling my son about Santa because it felt dishonest to me, but we eventually decided to do it anyway. It seemed fun and harmless.

It was fun for a while, but there was a bit of a snag. My son has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and finds rules very, very important. So, when he finally figured out that Santa isn't real, he felt completely betrayed, as (to him)we had clearly broken the rule against lying. He'd believed for much longer than his peers because he'd trusted us so deeply, and he was devastated. He still occasionally brings it up to this day (he's 14 now).

Granted, most neurotypical kids wouldn't have as extreme a reaction as my son's. However, since then, I've thought about how I felt when I found out and I do remember feeling tricked and a little hurt. I also started to wonder what else my parents weren't being honest about.

If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn't tell him about Santa. When he was old enough to understand, I would tell him that people like to pretend Santa is real, and that some people really do believe, so we mustn't spoil their fun. It would probably become an opportunity to teach him about respecting other people's beliefs, which can only be a good thing, I would think.

Regardless, my experience will almost surely differ from yours, but I wanted to share my perspective. Sorry for the length, and good luck with whatever decision you make!

amber said...

i skimmed the comments and i'd say there are some great suggestions there (save for the few random comments from some of the anon folks).

it seems like christmas has just had really bad timing the last couple of years. my guess is that things will eventually start to get a bit easier and that you probably just need one or two christmases to be followed by a mellow winter to stop completely associating that time of year with disaster. i hope that you're able to come up with a good solution for you and the kiddos and that the end of this year is the beginning of a good 2009.

Anonymous said...

What I am getting most of all is that you want to give the twins (and necessarily then, yourself) some MAGIC around Chistmas, but aren't sure how. All I can say is, be open. The magic is already there!!!

Don't think I'm some freak, please. I'm of two minds about the holidays. Part of me loves being festive with friends, eating, drinking and being merry. With that, although I'm not religious, there is a certain spirit I connect with throughout the year, and for which I feel a special reverence around the holidays. You could all it the spirit of giving (although I don't do gifts to family and friends anymore, unless a particular friend is in need, or the right gift for mom or sis finds me. I regularly do gifts to strangers, however). But it is more than the spirit of giving that I celebrate at Christmas. A spirit of giving, comfort and joy. Love and great power.

At the same time, I came to this feeling of Xmas following huge loss and some very dark holidays. And then there are those Christmas expectations -- the root of all holiday suffering. At first, it was funny how even after the loss of, well, everything I held most dear, part of me could still carry expectations of Xmas that could be dashed. And watching people exchange expensive gifts with everyone in their families leaves me empty. I don't want those traditions in my life.

I avoid the expectations and the commercialism entirely, without guilt. Yes, that means I avoid all planned gift giving and family events. I treat the holidays as a time to be spontaneous. I don't stay open to family get togethers that have proven hellish year after year. But I stay open to whatever other celebrations and connections might come up. And the last few years have been magical.

As for kids and Santa, well, who am I to have an opinion? But since you asked, these are some thoughts that come up. :-) I see your delimma. Since your husband had convictions about this but you are ambivilant, why not chose tihs as one situation in which to honor his wishes? On the other hand, you are their living parent -- the one that is here to decide what is best for them and to live with those choices. So again, what I am getting most of all is that you want to give them (and necessarily then, yourself) some MAGIC around Chistmas, but aren't sure how. All I can say is, be open. The magic is already there!!!

I'm thinking -- don't fret about whether you'll teach Maddie and Riley to believe in Santa. I'm not so sure we can decide whatour kids believe about Santa, anyway. And not just because of other kids. From at least age 3, I pretended to believe in Santa for my parents' sake, and because I didn't want to be different from my sisters and friends. From a few reads of this blog, somehow I wouldn't be surprised if your kids questioned it right off the bat, too.

But somehow, I still caught the spirit! Go really, really easy on yourself this year. Let it happen!

Laura in L.A. said...

Please, please let the kids have Santa! There are so few "magical" things in this life, and Santa is one of them. We did the whole bit--writing to Santa, leaving cookies for Santa--and it was wonderful. The kids are just thrilled!

We also choose gifts for needy kids through our church, and we bought food to take to our town's food pantry. I do want the emphasis to be on giving to others. Create your own Christmas traditions. Your kids will remember them for the rest of their lives.

Laura C. said...

My partner is an atheist Jew, and Christmas is hard for us (I grew up celebrating Christmas and enjoy it). What we've come up with is: we do have a tree. Santa is considered to be a fun story. My daughter opens gifts from the extended family on Christmas, and we have a private celebration on "Family Day" (which we do on New Year's Day). My daughter does not seem to feel deprived and has never ruined any other kids' Xmas by announcing that there's no Santa.

One thing I have found, and see even in these comments, is that there's a tremendous amount of pro-Santa sentiment in this culture. If you decide to go the no-Santa route, you'll need a standard, smiling "oh, we don't do Santa at our house" line to use pretty regularly with folks who can't imagine such a thing. In the above comments, there's an intermittent refrain of "don't deprive the kids of Santa!" which sets my teeth on edge. No matter what you decide, your kids will not be deprived of anything.

Also, the idea of personalized and noncommercial rituals is a great one. That's what kids look forward to, and it's part of what makes the Santa thing magical -- the ritual, doing the same fun things every year. We do a treasure hunt on Family Day, with clues leading to a cache of presents, that my daughter loves.

Ali said...

I am posting without reading any comments first.

Over the last few months you have really found a new YOU I believe. This is leading up to a new 2009. It will be a good year for you. It already has a good head start I beleive.

It has to be hard to know that John had beliefs and you might be raising your children one way if he was alive. But now it is only you and you have to do what you are comfortable with moving forward. Your kids are still going to be little for awhile. Did you love Christmas when you were younger? From that you said it sounds lik you did. It really is such a magical time and your kids will love it. Maybe ask your Mom for help since she was so good at it. Dig deep and find that Christmas spirit for you and your children. It will help start 2009 off in the right direction.

My 2 cents...let them belive in Santa. It is only for a few years and it is really fun and magical for them. With the gifts. I make a list of what I want him to have and I usuallly do all the shopping and then people pay me back. It is easier for everyone and then I don't end up with stuff he won't play with or too much extra. I know that is probably a bit controlling but it works for my family!

LauraC said...

Threeundertwo's recent post on HDYDI about how kids perceive the holidays really hit home with me. The reason I love Halloween so much is because my mom made it such a special time. I've started to realize that is a gift I can give my kids.

I am taking this holiday season to think about traditions we want to instill for the long-term. And none of those traditions have to be about gifts.

The year my husband and I got married we decided to stop the gift giving within our family (brothers, sisters, parents, etc). We take all that money and donate it somewhere instead. The year I was pregnant we funded a field trip for low-income students... 100 first graders! Our family still thinks we're crazy but starting next year, Nate and Alex will get to help decide what we do with the money.

And our Christmas eve plans include a fire in the fireplace, Christmas music, hot chocolate with lots and lots of whipped cream, new books to read together, and decorating cookies.

Lals said...


I haven't had the chance to read through all the comments here, so forgive me if say something that's already been said.

My father slipped into a coma on my 11th birthday and died (of cancer) just three days later. Needless to say, our family was devastated, on so many different levels. Holidays (and my birthday) instantly became so hard for us. We would often go travel to visit my father's family for Christmas. They expected us to be happy and celebratory and never once mentioned the fact that my father (their brother/uncle/etc...) had died, nor did they ever even mention is name. It was like my father never existed at all. It made an already difficult situation even worse. Finally, my aunt (my father's eldest) sister, had enough of all of the silliness and pulled me aside for a private conversation. She just told me how much she missed her brother, how Christmas was hard for her, and then shared some of her favourite Christmas memories of my father. It meant the world to me!

I relay my story to encourage you to honour John's memory by talking about him and incorporating him into your Christmas celebration with the twins. I learned, as a child through that conversation with my aunt, that it's okay to cry, it's okay to be sad, and it's okay to laugh and have fun, too. Apart from not exchanging gifts, are there any Christmas traditions that you and John shared? Do you have photos of past Christmases together? Perhaps you could make a little book for the twins with photos of John from past Christmases? I'm just throwing a few things out here. Most importantly, I'd like to encourage you to not allow anyone (society, family, or otherwise) to tell you how to behave and how to feel. Your feelings and your mourning-journey is uniquely your own. Just from reading your blog, you're doing a great job honouring John's memory and being Mom to beautiful kiddos.

All that said, I certainly vote for letting the twins experience the joy and wonder of Santa.

Big Hugs to you, Snick.

PS. If you're going to be in Portland, then might I suggest Peacock Lane? I think the twins would love it!!!

G Love said...

I commented once, but I remembered something else - Tolkien has a delightful book called The Father Christmas Letters, where he (as Father Christmas) has written really funny and inventive letters to his kids. They have great pictures. I love to read it to my kid - I think there are something like 18 letters, so Jack gets 1 letter per night for the couple of weeks before Christmas. Super cute book! And also, if you decide to do a tree, a blogger named Meghan (google Pyreflies over Zanarkand if you want to find it) last year bought a little wee tree that you hang on the wall. That way her 2 year old wouldn't eat it or pull it down or whatever, but they still had some festive cheer in the house.

Good luck to you, dear Snick, over this somewhat treacherous holiday period. I think some of your other commentors have hit on a truth about holidays - a lot of the pain of them involve real life falling short of expectations. Maybe by doing this analysis ahead of time, and recognizing that it won't be perfectly Norman Rockwell but there will be good moments, will help you navigate these John-less holidays with some happiness, even if it is bittersweet.

The Creative Housewife said...

Delurking -- We did the Santa thing with our three kids. They got presents from family on Christmas Eve, and then on Christmas Day, they had one gift waiting on them from Santa.

I also have always fretted over the commercialism of Christmas. To kind of get around that, we always pick a child from the Salvation Army Angel Tree (found at Wal-Mart stores; probably others, as well). We try to get the child one complete outfit, shoes and a few toys. This way, my kids get a lesson in what Christmas really means (well, to me anyway!), which is remembering others. My kids really have a good time picking things out for our angel.

We also let the kids buy for each other. They draw names, and each one gets $10 to spend on their chosen sibling.

I guess my main mission is to make sure that Christmas isn't all me-me-me. for them.

Anonymous said...

hmmm im kinda anti santa too and dont know what to do with my son thankfully hes only 6 months so ive got a bit of time to think. will watch and see what you decide and hopefully get some ideas. also have you had the talk with Mr Coffee im waiting anxiously to hear take care

Lisa said...

Hey, When you come to PDX, I'll treat you and the twins to a children's museum visit if you are needing some activities (or maybe a mom w/o kids visit if we can swing it).

I remember last christmas I put the tree up myself, assembled the kids' train table myself (with lots of cursing) and didn't even assemble a toy kitchen because the whole thing was driving me nuts (gave it away at some point, still unassembled). Christmas is hard when the kids are so young and you are doing everything yourself. I was asking myself WHY am I doing this? too. But I think it is getting easier as they grow older and get more into it.

We don't do Santa really. We read "Night before Christmas and stuff and talk about the Santa story, but it is just a story. I haven't gone out of my way to tell them santa isn't real. Like I haven't gone out of my way to tell them Dora or the backyardigans aren't real, either. But I haven't gone out of my way to make like Santa comes to my house. They still enjoy Santa, I think. They get excited when they see him around (pictures, figurines, etc.) But they don't get caught up in the myth.

Anonymous said...

I see so many good comments. I want to say that I really think whatever you decide is authentic for you, is fine. Your kids are your kids, and you can work out with them how to talk to other families.

That said, I think the ritual from "Getter" (believes in Santa) to "Giver" (becomes Santa) is one (of many possible) very cool passages from early childhood to later childhood. Sometimes I think our society has done away with the myriad steps to adulthood so thoroughly that it gets a little nuts.

nancy said...

Regarding the coughing, you may find this strange, but it really works! Rub Vicks VaporRub on the bottom of their feet and put socks on. I don't know why, but it stops the night coughing. My son would cough until he threw up and this was the only thing that worked.

Regarding Santa, I'm torn. We do Santa at our house, as do most of our friends. It never occurred to me NOT to have Santa, but now I think a better way to go would have been the make Santa a much smaller part of the process. Maybe just for stockings or one present. My kids are 7 and 9 and I'll be glad when they both are done with Santa. I think my son knows, but he's of the "don't ruin it for my little sister" mindset.

Anonymous said...

The Tooth Fairy is not the same as the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. The Tooth Fairy comes only to your house on only the special night when only your child has lost a tooth. It's an acknowledgment of a rite of passage for your child. It is not to be missed.
Dorca's sis

Anonymous said...

I feel for you. My advice - do what you want. As long as you have some tradition for your kids, it'll be great for them. Even if the tradition is that you guys ALWAYS take a vacation to a warm place with a pool and palm trees.

Green said...

I am jewish and we lived in Northboro, MA when I was a baby/toddler. Obviously we didn't do Christmas. I always knew other kids got presents from their parents and their parents told them it was from a fat guy named Santa who wasn't real. It was impressed upon me that even though I knew the truth, I was NEVER to set other kids straight - that was for their parents to do.

I never told anyone.

My friend's daughter asked me straight out when she was about four months shy of turning four if Santa was real (she's jewish too) and she asked a couple of months after Halloween. So I said to her, "remember when you dressed up as a cat for Halloween? Were you really a cat? Or were you just a little girl wearing a cat costume?" I let her make the connection.

If you don't want your kids to just expect to sit back and watch the presents roll in, what about making it a season of giving? You can use this as a time to get rid of their baby toys they are too old for and explain you're (and they) giving it away to a little baby, and someone else (grandparents, relatives, etc.) are giving them some things.

Maybe you can involve them in picking out or making gifts you want to give relatives and then they'll be so excited to say "Grandma look what we made you" that they won't even think to say "Grandpa where's my present?"

Hope that helps.

What A Card said...

This is a big post, with a lot of things to comment on (as is obvious by the number of comments you've gotten)...I haven't been able to read them all. Anyway, I'm not feeling that good about the commercialization of the season...it's even worse for us celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas...it's like a non-stop present extravaganza from Thanksgiving until New Year. So we don't really do many gifts for the boys. Maybe a thing or two. I think they'll get beanbag chairs from us this year. Their real gift from us is making a donation to a charity. I'm excited because I think this is the first year they're going to kind of understand the idea of it, and be involved in the selection of the charity.

I guess it's my small way to try to counteract the commercialism forced upon them by well-meaning grandparents!

My parents were more into the "spirit of Santa" encouraging generosity in the season than any one guy who threw presents down your chimney. Maybe you can go that route? My guys know Santa only as that big evil man I forced them to have their picture taken with...

Big hugs about the rest.

Dianne said...

I have a few thoughts about Christmas, as my husband and I too, struggle with everything you do. We are not religious, and do not want our kids to be spoiled with so much stuff (plus we have no room for all said stuff, anyway.)

Maybe I will send my thoughts later, what I really wanted to address is the coughing which wakes everyone up in the middle of the night. If one of them wakes up with a coughing fit in the middle of the night, sneak in their room and rub some vicks vapo rub on their feet and then cover with socks. Someone told me it was an old wives tale, but when my son coughs uncontrollably all night long, I was willing to try anything. Sounds weird, I know, but it worked! I have done it many times, and I would say 90% of the time it makes the coughing stop. It helps if you can get it on before they wake up, too :)

Good luck!

Dianne said...

wanted to clarify on the vicks vapo rub, put it on the BOTTOMS of their feet. Weird I know, but in my experience, it works.

s_ivan said...

I'm Jewish - I never really understood what's so great about Santa. I never really missed him or the gifts. To me, the magic of Christmas was seeing all the other Jewish families at the movie theater!

But I must share a sweet Santa story with you. A friend from hockey has 6 kids, two singletons and two sets of twins. When her oldest son was 11 or 12, he still believed in Santa. She and her husband were afraid he'd be embarrassed if his friends knew he still believed, or that he'd resent them for carrying on the charade when he eventually did figure it out. So her husband sat him down, away from the other kids, and told him that mom and dad are Santa and that now that he was old enough, he should help them be Santa and keep the surprise/magic alive for the little ones. They were braced for an awful reaction.

His reaction?

"Thank goodness you told me, dad! Otherwise, when I grow up and have kids they never would have gotten any presents!"

Becky said...

#1 reason to believe in Santa: Cute photos on his lap. :) We had Santa even though we're Jewish! I think it's inevitable because almost all kids are taught to believe in him.

Losh said...

I see nothing wrong in fostering a belief in Santa, the Tooth Fairy etc. Childhood is fleeting - a little bit of magic goes a long way! What could be more exciting than putting out mince pies & carrots for Santa & Rudolph on Christmas Eve? I do think that not all presents should be from Santa though, as it is important for the true giver of a gift to be thanked properly. Maybe just the stocking should be from Santa.

Anonymous said...

Just skip it this year! Maybe have champagne with Mr. C. Then go home, relax, do nothing. Drink some hot coco on the 24th and on the 25th, let the kids open presents from Bah and Moo. They'll love it -- and whatever traditions you develop down the road, they'll never remember that this year was "low key." The trip and grandparents presents will be special.

You deserve it. You don't have to make any big decisions about this, which yes, is a decision in itself and, in my opinion, good for the kids.

When are they getting the IKEA chairs?

Anonymous said...

We run the "we don't know if it's true, but there's this great STORY about Santa," and her cue has been she wants to believe. It's pretty clear that on a gut level she groks the idea that Santa is not literal, but that he's about generosity and joy and giving. She's a pretty insightful 5-year-old in some ways!

Christmas obviously comes with a lot of emotional baggage for you, and I'm so sorry. In your shoes, I'd pick the parts that sound appealing to *you* without worrying so much about the kids missing out -- at this age they won't know the difference. So if baking cookies sounds fun but a tree sounds like a chore, go with it, and instead take your kids to a holiday display elsewhere. Or whatever seems fun to you.

Best wishes as you feel your way through it.


Anonymous said...

I see you have 80 comments so far so what I want to say will have probably been said. But here goes anyway... for me, one of the greatest joys of being a parent is watching my daughters on Christmas morning. They LOVE the thought that Santa has come and brought them presents. And I love playing the part of Santa. I don't go overboard on gifts - we already have enough toys anyway! But to have a tree and gifts to open is fun for them.

There are still plenty of holiday stresses and I am glad when Jan comes because it is all behind me -but Christmas can be fun with little kids.

Best of luck in decided what is right for your family!


Jessie said...

We never did the Santa thing in my family and I won't do it with my little guy. It just seems weird to me. Who wants presents from a stranger that breaks into your house in the night... Weird. :-)

karen said...

even though i'm grown, i still love the idea of santa- so i would suggest teaching them maybe that santa is in everyone and they can be a "santa" to other people and each other?

i guess i think of "the polar express" and the idea that there's magic in believing in something- no matter what it is- so if you can incorporate that into them being able to make other people's worlds a little bit more magical, that'd rock.

but i'm sure whatever you do, it'll be awesome, and they'll both be very giving people!

Stacy said...

The holidaze are so hard. After K. died I wanted nothing to do with them, but family didn't understand. I went through the motions for them, not me. Now 3.5 years later it is getting better, but not great. The twins make it easier, but it is also a constant reminder of who ISN'T there.

One thing that has helped me is starting a tradition that includes my daughter. Another thing is carving out some alone time for yourself and some alone time with the kids as a family. This is particularly important (and hard) when travelling and staying at someone else's house. Believe me, I know. However, I think it is important.

I have no advice on the Santa thing. I think it is a fun tradition so I will be doing it for my kids.

By the way - I'll be in Detoit for Thanksgiving at my inlaws as well. I travel armed with wine! ;-)