Mother’s day eve, my husband came home with three small bouquets of flowers. One for me, one for my mother who had come round for dinner, and one for our helper – who cares for our children during the week when we are at work.
I think after eight years of adding ‘parent’ as another notch to who we are- we’ve worked out what makes us work as parents and as a family. We have a functional tribe; raising happy, curious children and despite their irritating penchant for Minecraft I think we’ll keep them. This by itself is enough reason to celebrate. With it being mother’s day I took stock of the past eight years of being part of this club and thought about what I want to impart; unconditional love and ” WOULD YOU please PUT YOUR BLOODY TOYS AWAY?!” aside.
So here are my 10 commandments for me (but really for my children.) It was a spontaneous activity on the elliptical (generally, me using an elliptical would also be considered a spontaneous activity). Some days are better than others, but that’s kind of the point to this parenting lark.
Motherhood: My Ten Commandments
1. I refuse to be my child’s first bully.
2. I am not perfect but I am enough to get the job done, and do it well.
3. I will respect their time and be a good listener.
4. As a family we run our own race.
5. I am raising people, not just children. We will respect choices, but demand accountability.
6. Kindness, creativity, honesty, respect and perseverance – if I want my children to value these attributes, I will have to lead by example.
7. I will help them uncover their sense of self worth and learn to be kind to themselves.
8. I will always say sorry when I have been unfair.
9. I will empower their ideas, and invest in them – if they can achieve external buy-in.
10. I will continue to add, edit and work on this list, and for that I have to thank them. This is for me to keep myself in line for them, but really also for me. Because, that’s how it all works -you get as good as you give, just not how you expect it.
Every good lie (for the greater good, reasons of magic, and Christmas morning squeals) needs an element of the truth. We needed a story they could believe. Magic is reserved for Santa, so it begs a lot of questions in our household – how does it all work? Remembering that kids scope for time and distance is somewhat limited, that there’s a fine line between the idea of magic being digestible and impossible, and to them, expectations of human ingenuity are rather high.. I cooked up Santa tax.
We’re fairly straightforward with our kids on the monetary systems that we rely on – and as working parents it’s helped us to provide some concept of the economy and why mummy is always the last person running up the hill after work in heels to the school to more often than not, to be sang at. Literally, sang at, a bit like being shouted at, but in song. (See also: Black Sabbath concert.)
So how to explain Operation: Christmas Eve? By involving a global community of kind grown-ups, pragmatic about the logistical strains on Santa and mindful of Elfish welfare. Mind you, magic still plays a very important part in all of this.
Before I get ahead of myself. Let’s start with the main components of Operation: Christmas Eve.
The Naughty and Nice list
Sorry, Orwell. For the purposes of controlling small children and otherwise encouraging good behaviour only for personal gain incentivizing good behaviour we’ve decided that big brother watching you is OK. When we’re out in public this is done through CCTV – very omnipresent in Hong Kong. Just to make sure there is no funny business, a panel of adults close to said child – aunts, uncles, grown-up friends of mummy and daddy’s, teachers, doctors and the shopping mall Santa’s are asked for a review. The Elves ask us to do a survey, like the census people. This is what much of the 11 other months of the year are spent on, with a review close to Christmas time. Diabolical. This is all of course conducted on email (still a novel concept to my two). Email is ‘other’ and boring and probably best left to adults who know how to be boring and ‘other’ . So now we have the incentive piece locked down – to the reward.
The History of Santa Tax
Before I explain this bit, it helps to imagine every government, toy shop, children’s brand licensee, and toy multinational as this guy. This will probably require a lot of imagination:
Where do the toys come from?
You see back in the old days when mummy was young, The Elves made the toys for all the children in the world.
But with billions more people around the world today than 1 BM (Before Mummy), the elves were being overworked and the poor reindeer were under a lot of strain, the sleigh was getting slower and slower and Santa had to start using fuel towards the end of the journey, giving him, for the very first time – a carbon footprint. Enough was enough. This was starting to feel like a job. Santa needed help – big time. He went to the United Nations and all the countries passed a unanimous resolution (see, told you magic played an important role) for all the governments in the world to set up a Toy tax to support him. Now, Elves love to make toys. Next to their excellent organizational skills, this is their most favourite thing to do. Toy tax meant that they could have better working conditions, and now all the toys that the elves make go to charities around the world to children that may have otherwise not gotten anything for Christmas (which Amazon ship free from their North Pole office, of course.) For all the other children, like you, who are lucky enough to have mummy’s and daddy’s that pay tax, a portion of this goes towards the Santa tax, alongside the other things that we enjoy like utilities, education, health care, and transportation. A little bit of this money goes to all the toy shop’s to help them cover their costs – because they, of course live in our world where they still need to pay rent.
So on Christmas eve, what Santa does is, he travels to the pick up point which is usually the biggest toy shop in the country and loads up all the presents and delivers them to all the children in that country. Because this is just one country’s worth, he and the reindeer do this in no time! Much faster than before when he had to lug a sack of the whole world’s toys to each and every country. He then goes to the next country and does the same thing, over and over again until all the countries in the world have houses with presents for the children. He of course, decides on the final naughty or nice list and chooses the present he thinks you should get beforehand. The rest is magic.
So this breaks tradition and it’s by no means a perfect explanation. Some would argue this is far too thought out and would all have been better left to be imagined on it’s own. Perhaps. For us though, it’s been a fun story to spin, and my kids listen to every word. It makes me feel like Danny’s dad in Danny the Champion of the World. And I know we’ll be laughing about it one day – always sooner than I think.
This also helped me answer some of the more obvious plot holes:
– Why you see the same present under your tree as at the toy shop? That’s where they toys are from.
– Why do some kids not get presents? Their parent’s probably don’t pay Santa tax for their own reasons. These kids probably get presents at other times of the year. Or you know, coal.
And trickier ones I would have dug deeper with my famous shovel if I hadn’t thought of the response in advance:
– Billy Snotface III at school said that Santa isn’t real and that his mummy and daddy buy all his presents. Well, this one is obvious isn’t it? Sharon Boogerbreath and Harvey Toejam probably do buy all of Billy’s presents. Everyone knows that all the people in the house needs to believe in Santa for his magic key to work. If even one person doesn’t believe in him, then it would be wrong for him to enter a house where he wouldn’t be expected or welcome wouldn’t it?
– What about all the other Santa’s that we see in shopping malls and parties? They work with Santa on the ground – and they need to answer the survey about you too. Besides, don’t you like dressing up as your favourite super hero?
In our house, Santa only gets one present (we need some credit, right?) He doesn’t always get the kids what they want – for practical reasons usually – (‘Santa, I want a magnetic telescope.’ You what?). He sometimes goes bigger, sometimes smaller. It usually ends up being just right.
And my final disclaimer, this is all just background, white noise, a story that comes out when a question is asked. Everything my kids still value about Santa are the magic bits. The flying reindeer, the cookies half eaten, the presents( ‘how did he know!), the deep Ho Ho Ho’s, – in short the magic. Deceptive as it is, giving them some semblance of real world context to Santa folklore I hope helps it stay magic for just that bit longer.
This photo came to mind tonight as mothers day comes to a close.We were walking around the lake and weren’t the only ones to notice this particular swan and her cygnet. There’s usually a weekend crowd that congregates with bread around the Fairview Park lake which surprisingly, estate management tend to turn a blind eye to. This particular weekend, there was also a huge net that was hoisted in the middle along the width of the lake for maintenance and quite a bit of rubbish was caught in it. The mother swan watched closely as the cygnet interacted with the bits and bobs in the water. Whenever she came across something potentially harmful like a cellophane bread bag or a leaf she would drag it out of the way, but only after the cygnet had a curious peck at it. She batted the more daring Koi out of the way, and snapped at any unsuspecting terrapins that came in for their share of the loot. She, or to be fair, it could have been a he – did this repeatedly as the the cygnet went for the same floating debris; fighting water, other animals and the gaggle of humans that kept attracting its young with more strips of bread. She watched, waited and asserted herself when she needed to and did it all from the backseat (so to speak.) Thanks for the lesson, mama swan.