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Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy December 27, 2013 07:12 AM
Because of Santa Claus, my youngest child was certain that he was going to ruin Christmas for everyone.
Somehow, I don't think that's how it's supposed to work.
Liam is 8 and believes firmly in Santa Claus. It's very sweet. His four older siblings think it's sweet too, and help by doing things like talking about hearing hoofbeats on the roof, or hiding Amazon boxes, or weaving stories to answer Liam's innumerable questions. Michaela, 22, got the NORAD app on her phone so that Liam could track Santa on Christmas Eve.
"It says that he usually comes between 9 and 12," she told him. "But he only comes when everyone is asleep."
Almost immediately, Liam got anxious. "Everyone needs to go to bed," he told us. "We've got time," said Michaela. "He's in Brazil." Liam was not convinced.
I put Liam to bed. When I went up with his sister a half hour later, he was still awake, and getting worried. "What if I can't fall asleep?" he asked. "You will," I told him.
An hour later, he called me up. "I'm still awake," he said. "Don't think about sleeping," I said. "Make up a story in your head or something." I got the Christmas presents out with the help of the older kids (my husband was working the night shift) and at 11:25, just as I was putting the last of the candy in the stockings, Liam's head peered around the corner. "I can't sleep," he said.
I dove on him and pulled him out of the room, thanking God that he left his Coke-bottle glasses upstairs, and brought him back to bed. I climbed in with him; his face was wet with tears. "If I don't fall asleep," he said, "Santa won't come and nobody will get presents."
"Oh, sweetie," I said, "I'm sure he will." "No, he won't," sobbed Liam.
I shut off the lights downstairs and brought Liam into bed with me (he said that might help). He looked at the clock: it was 11:38. "There won't be any Christmas presents," he said through tears. I held him and stroked his head. "Santa will come after midnight if you're not asleep," I said. "You don't know that," he said. "You don't know what Santa will do." But I do, I thought. "He always comes, honey," I said, but it didn't help.
Right about then, my 21-year-old son decided to finish up his handmade gifts and wrap them. For reasons that were not fully clear to me, this involved lots of opening and closing doors--directly beneath my bedroom. Liam tossed and turned every time the doors closed. I texted Michaela to tell Zack to stop, but he didn't. I turned the clock so that Liam wouldn't see that it was 11:53; he was crying so hard he was shaking. Finally, I climbed out of bed, went downstairs and told Zack off in a, well, not very Christmas-y way. "I'm wrapping presents," he said reasonably. "Not here you're not," I snapped back, completely unreasonably, and stomped off.
As I got back in bed and held the trembling Liam close, I thought: this is ludicrous. The gosh-darn presents are under the tree. My younger son is a mess, and I just reamed out my older son on Christmas Eve for wrapping presents....because of Santa?
Like I said: not how it's supposed to work. How is this a good idea? And on top of everything, Santa gets all the credit for the presents. Totally ludicrous.
Liam settled, finally, and drifted into sleep. He woke in a panic on Christmas morning; he ran downstairs and came back to tell me that Santa had come after all. "I told you he would," I said. "He almost didn't," said Liam.
It all passed, of course. Liam forgot all about it once he opened the Star Wars toys Santa brought, and I apologized to Zack, who was very gracious and understanding about the whole thing. But I'm kinda feeling like after 23 Christmases with children I might have hit my Santa wall. We might just need to have a talk with Liam before next Christmas rolls around.
Although, as I think about how completely excited Liam was to see the bootprints of ash Zack made outside the fireplace...well, we'll see. Another year or two might not be terrible.
As long as we get to bed earlier.
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About MD MamaClaire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »
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