By: Ted Peterson
“What do you want for Christmas?” Santa asked as he gave Mikey a lollipop.
“This?” Mikey answered, referencing the sweet.
“No, I mean what else, besides the lollipop?” Santa replied, with a ho ho ho.
“A Christmas tree for Jimmy, and one for Evan, and one for Bryan,” he said, rattling off three of his best friends at preschool.
“That’s very nice,” the fat man chuckled. “But what can I get for you, little boy?”
“Oh, nothing,” said Mikey.
We have an unvicious circle with our son. If you captured any one moment of his life out of context, you would think he was either horribly spoiled or almost saintly in his altruism, but the truth is a little of both. He gets pretty much anything he wants, and he shares it all, anytime of year, holidays or not.
I myself was raised on a similar philosophy. One of our family stories has my grandfather calling my mom from a toy store, asking what he should do –I was crying about some toy.
“Here’s what I would do,” my mom said. “Buy it.”
Kids are grabby, greedy little things, but their needs for toys, for stimulation, for something to spark imagination and laughter, is as pure as rain water. People talk about education and play as if they’re two different things, but in a child, they aren’t. I am not going to deny my son anything that I would have fun playing with him, and I’m not going to apologize for it either. He knows the word “no” not because we say it all the time, but because we say it rarely, and when we do, we mean it.
Last weekend, we were going to my brother’s house for a holiday party, and Mikey wanted to bring along a beloved wind-up chick he had been playing with. He left it in the diaper bag because there were other toys to play with, and as we were leaving, he asked my brother if he could have one of the small containers of Playdoh.
When he was told he could, he ran to his diaper bag and gave up his wind-up chick in exchange. I wouldn’t have asked him to do this in exchange for a gift. It just seemed fair to him.
For some reason, Mikey’s been empathetic for as long as we can remember. He runs to help when he hears another kid crying, he loves to share, and when he is faced with a baby or an animal, he always assures everyone he will be gentle before he touches them. At his preschool’s holiday show, he stood immobile at the front of the stage with the other three-year-olds, occasionally mouthing the words, occasionally waving to the audience, acting just the same as the rest his age. Then at the end of “Feliz Navidad,” he looked at the boy closest to him, and decided that he needed reindeer antlers. Jimmy started to object when Mikey took off his own antler hat and put it on him, but he realized resistance was futile. He gave his friend a high five in return.
So, what do you get the kid who has it all, who just wants to share and do things for other people?
Mikey has his own idea he came up with after he told Santa that he only wanted Christmas trees for his friends. He was looking at the Christmas card from my cousin’s family who is expecting their third child. I pointed to the mother’s belly and the expression on her daughter’s face, and said, “It looks like she’s saying ‘Look, that’s my baby brother in there.’”
“Oh,” said Mikey, frowning and studying the card more. “Can I have a little brother too?”
Probably not for Christmas, kid, but we’ll see.