Here & there: The power of the Christmas wish list

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FEATURE – As I write this column I am sitting in the surgical waiting room at Primary Children’s Medical Center. My 13-year old is getting his tonsils removed for Christmas. His forecast for the next several days is a throat of knives and codeine-induced nausea, which adds up to a pretty rotten, although memorable, Christmas.

One of my most memorable Christmases as a child has nothing to do with a tonsillectomy (which I did get the summer between my junior and senior years of high school and therefore can attest to its utter misery) and everything to do with the fulfillment of my Christmas list.   

That year, I got exactly what I wanted: a Cabbage Patch doll and a skateboard. It was glorious. 

Oh, the beloved Christmas List.  Every child has one.  Some are longer than others.  Some are more tender than others. And some are more unrealistic than others. This year, my 7-year-old  has two items on his list:  a dinosaur (real, of course) and a jet pack (also real, of course). 

The Christmas list holds great power. 

Starting in October I hear myself saying, “put it on your list,” for everything from requests for a pair of fuzzy, black gorilla slippers and LED flashlights shaped like orca whales to the coveted Nintendo NES.    

By the time December comes, the “put it on your list” list is so long neither my kids nor I remember exactly what’s on it. So then something more realistic gets put to paper. 

I confess that I use the power of the list to motivate my children to do all sorts of things in the months preceding Christmas: their chores; their homework; the dishes; forgiving each other when one brother punches the other in passing for no reason whatsoever.

But the list is something more than a parental motivational tool. It’s the promise of a gift from Santa – the realization of the magic of the Christmas spirit. Hence all the dishes and homework and forgiving.  

All in hopes of making the nice list.

Although, according to one of my boys, Santa is more differentiating than most of us believe. It’s not just the naughty or nice list, but rather the nice, mostly-nice, half-nice, half-naughty, mostly-naughty or really-naughty list. Only the bottom two get coal, which is great for my boy, who is pretty sure he’s got “half-naughty” in the bag.

My boy’s interpretation of the naughty or nice list not only shows his personality, but it also shows another element of Christmas. The hope. 

At Christmas we all hope. For some, their hope is in the spiritual. For others, it’s in the secular magic of the season. 

Kids hope for the things on their Christmas lists. Parents hope we can give our kids what they hope for – to give them some magic in a world that makes less sense by the day. 

So today, on this Christmas, wherever you fall – spiritual, secular, half-naughty or half-nice – may you feel the magic of the day and let it carry you forward into 2017.

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