Santa Conundrum No. 3: Why Do We Donate Toys?

As a family, we make a number of charitable contributions this time of year. Flora’s school had a Toys for Tots drive, and I had the girls pick out a new toy when we were shopping to donate to that.

One of the other things I did was donate gently used toys to a charity called Play It Forward Pittsburgh (this link goes to the Facebook page). One Friday, before I dropped Kate off, we stopped at the house in my neighborhood that was collecting the donations.

When I got back in the car, Kate said, “Why are you giving our toys to this house?”

I said, “They are collecting used toys to give to kids who won’t get toys at Christmas.”

“Why doesn’t Santa give them toys?” Kate asked. “Because they are bad?”

Oh, shite.

“Nooo,” I said, trying to think fast. “Sometimes Santa needs help getting more toys to give to more children. If kids have a lot of toys that they don’t play with, Santa likes us to give them to him, so he can give them to children he knows don’t have lots of toys. He knows the toys will get played with that way.”

This explanation, brought to you by the seat of my pants, seemed to satisfy Kate quite well.

I just wish I had dropped her off first, *then* donated the toys. It’d would’ve made my morning a little less stressful.

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Speaking of donating toys, check out what readers of burghbaby.com helped Michelle do this year. Wow, is all I have to say.

Santa Conundrum No. 2: Regifting

My children have a lot of stuff.

I work hard each year, starting in October, to go through old toys with my children, decide what we will put away, decide what we will donate, and so on. The kids like to do this, primarily because they know other stuff is coming in — and, yeah, that their toys are going to find a home with a child who doesn’t have as much as they do for one reason or another.

As I mentioned yesterday, we keep Christmas to one Santa gift, plus stocking stuffers. When other family members ask, I request memberships; educational toys or board games; arts and crafts; or Wii and DSi games. Books are also popular, although I tend to buy those myself. And I ask: please, not a lot. (And please, no clothes for the girls!)

Saturday afternoon, while the girls were out and about with their Bella and Tadone (part of their Christmas gift to the grandchildren was a day out together), I went down the basement and picked out three gifts from what we had stored down there. These are Michael’s gifts this year.

And then, as I was wrapping them, I realized that I couldn’t say that one of these gifts was from Santa. The girls will recognize their former toys.

Crap.

So, I went out and bought Michael a Santa toy to give him. I felt like an idiot — that I care so much to perpetuate the myth that I was adding to the stuff in the house. I had felt bad already — a little guilty, a little ridiculous — that I was picking Michael’s toys from the girls’ castoffs, but ultimately, he’s not going to care. I’m going to have to keep him from eating the wrapping paper, really. The Santa gift is less for him, and more for the girls (not the actual gift, although they will horn in on it. It’s a Brand.New.Toy!)… and for me.

To keep the magic alive.

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For an outstanding (and hilarious) conversation about the pros and cons of Santa, check out the Voices at Babble: Is Santa a hero, or just a big lie? Read and weigh in. I know where I stand.

Santa Conundrum No. 1: The Letter

The following is the letter that Flora dictated to her Tadone (my FIL). I saw it for the first time last Thursday. I didn’t change any of the spelling or phrasing.

Santa Clause
North Pole, U.S.A.

Dear Santa Clause,

I know you are very busy working on toys for all the good children of the world.

I have be a pretty good girl this year and I would like to ask you if you would bring me some Christmas gifts this year.

1. May I please have a Barbie doll this year.
2. May I also have a fidget too.
3. And, do you have enough room in your bag for a “Rock Star Set”?
4. And for the most special Christmas Gift you could give me this year is a Small doggie, that is puppish and kind of grown-uppie.
Santa if you send me these gifts this year I will forever love and I promise to be a good girl for Mommy and Daddy.
Thank you very much,
Flora Maria Mangine

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Yes, I cried after reading it. #softie

I have no idea what a “fidget” or a “Rock Star Set” is.

The girls are each getting a bicycle and a board game. In addition, Flora is getting a book and Kate is getting a DVD. The bicycles plus their stocking stuffers are their Santa gifts.

I am wondering if there is going to be fallout for not getting anything on this list. I am also wondering (and talking with Dan about) how to handle said fallout. If any.

I have allowed (?) my children to believe in Santa, obviously. I like the magic of Santa, I always have, even when I realized Santa, the red-suited Christmas Eve miracle worker, doesn’t exist as such. And I don’t really recall that Santa has brought specifically requested gifts in the past, but it probably didn’t matter because 1. This is Flora’s first actual letter to Santa and 2. They were probably too young to remember what all they asked for.

My children have always been pleased with their gifts on Christmas Day. We’ve always been clear that Santa only brings them one gift (the others are from Mommy and Daddy.) And we don’t go overboard (more on that later this week).

But I just wonder if some of Flora’s wonder will be different when she sees what’s under the tree this year. And how to appropriately talk about it with her (if we need to).

Do you let your kids believe in Santa? When does the doubt creep in, and how, and what do you do about it?

Yes, Virginia

From the mouth of babes, and the Newseum Web site:

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

For more information, check out the Wikipedia entry. This letter is simply one of my favorite things in the world.

Merry Christmas Eve.