The Wisdom of Santa Clause (29 Month Update)

February 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Our Recovery Journal

Every child knows the rules of Christmas.  Behave well and Santa will bring presents.  As a child gets older, they begin to assess Santa’s generosity.  He is clearly a fair and generous man.  Therefore, the presents should be distributed evenly among the children according to the level of their behavior.

The only problem with “fairness” is that every child considers fairness in a different way. 

The majority of kids define fairness by counting.  If Santa left x presents for child #1, then he should leave x presents for child #2.  If the count is equal, then the situation could be considered fair.  However, some children overthink it by using a weighted average.  Large & valuable presents count more than average presents and comparisons are adjusted to reflect the different value of each wrapped box.  Perceived disparities between siblings have ruined many a Christmas morning.  Getting free stuff isn’t nearly as exciting when a brother or sister gets even more free stuff.

From the beginning of time, Christmas morning has been met with joy… and jealousy.  A child can show tremendous maturity in appreciating that a stranger was generous enough to give them something they wanted.  This same child can quickly become a monster when brother or sister receives something just a little better.

The parents of the world would be better off if Santa let us know what to expect on Christmas morning.  We trust him to come into our home and leave appropriate presents, but his list contains millions of children from all over the world… how much time and energy does he really have to consider the needs of our children?


Who is Santa Clause?

We often think of Santa Clause a kind, generous, and happy go lucky individual.  He’s the kind of guy who is completely comfortable with the other seniors, but is also adept at mingling with the younger set.  He seems to have mastered the art of dealing with stress.  Overnight delivery… no problem.  Millions of last minute change orders… consider it done.

Those of us who have never engaged him in conversation may assume that he has lived a carefree life.  He comes across as one of those lucky people who has never faced difficult decisions.  We might feel that he doesn’t understand the angst of dealing with the day-to-day trials and tribulations of life.

Santa’s personality seems to be in direct contradiction with his job description.  One would think that delivering gifts to the entire world on a miraculous deadline would require a demanding personality.

Despite all the pressure, Santa never seems affected by the enormity of his job.  Of all the photos that he has ever taken, not one has ever caught with an angry or impatient look.  No matter how exhausted he might be, Santa always has enough energy remaining for a laugh and a smile.


A Jolly but Shrewd Man

This Christmas, the distribution of gifts under our tree opened the door for disappointment and fighting.  One child’s needs precipitated a larger than normal pile of presents.

In our home, the worst bedroom furniture belonged to our middle child.  Abby’s dressers had been in critical condition for some time.  They were bargain purchases by a young family with a small furniture budget.  While they many have been nice underneath the three coats of paint, the reality was that Abby’s dressers caused more problems than they solved.

The furniture not only looked shabby, it also functioned that way.  Drawers that opened past a certain point simply bent down and fell out.  It gets very old having to hold each drawer up when transferring clothes.  Even worse when you realize that socks are little protection when toes are being attacked by falling mahogany.

The frustration was bad enough that she put furniture as the most important item on her Christmas list.  The need so obvious that a seven year old chose to bump toys and clothes out of the #1 slot.

Santa saw her list and must have felt sorry for her.  He decided to up the ante.  Christmas morning each child had presents under the tree… and Abby had a big surprise waiting for her in the other room.  Not only did Santa bring a dresser.  He left an entire bedroom set.

If this gift had been given to the oldest child, it might have been interpreted as a rite of passage that would be bestowed on everyone else when they came of age.  The size of this gift was more than any of the kids had ever seen for Christmas.  Although everyone had a good time opening their gifts, there were some sad faces and hints of jealousy throughout the morning.

Santa must have also understood that this gift could cause family infighting.  He found a way to neutralize the hurt feelings and leave everyone feeling great about their day.  Hours later, the bedroom set was hauled upstairs, revealing a small wrapped present behind.  The kids have certain expectations of Santa… but those expectations are generally met after 20 minutes of ravenous unwrapping.  An “extra” present is much more of a surprise.

This present was different.  It was calm… alone… and totally unexpected.  While small in size, the surprise of finding it would mend the feelings of unfairness and allow Elise to feel just as special as her little sister.  Inside the box was an Ipod touch… by far her favorite present.  The surprise at snatching victory from the jaws of defeat made this her best Christmas ever.


The Impatience of Humanity

The antics of children might amuse us, but the reality of life is that we really haven’t changed since then.  Our adult thought processes are virtually the same as they were in our youth.  The hopes and dreams we have today are an adult version of those we had when we were the ones whispering in Santa’s ear.  The disappointment and jealousy in our lives mirror the feelings we had when a sibling opened up a present that was better than ours.

The Christmas season is a reflection of our humanity.  The wonder of Christmas now comes with a lot of adult hassle.  We stress out over the decorating, shopping, and social calendar.  This season has transformed from one of wonder and celebration into one of hard work and deadlines.

Most humans look at life the same way a child looks at a pile of Christmas presents.  No matter what we have, there are always those who seem to have more.  Our friends and neighbors don’t seem to be better people than us… but they certainly seem to be blessed with better health, luck, and finances.  All of us have been given the extraordinary gift of life and yet we discount the magnificence of having our own body, mind, and soul.


Life is a Reflection of Christmas

In the aftermath of stroke and traumatic brain injury, it is easy for our family to feel the kid who had a disappointing Christmas.  I write about our improvements every month, but that improvement leaves our capability far beneath what it once was.  Daily frustrations include the inability to drive, walk outside, or even operate the TV remote proficiently.  Our dreams have been downsized to reflect our new reality.  Trips to the amusement park, pool, or the movies are now only considered for the most special of occasions.

Jess can still probably accomplish 95% of what she could do before the trauma.  While that may seem like a lot, it is human nature to focus on the 5% that was lost.  That 5% represents losing a large amount of personal freedom.  She now must trust others to help her take a shower, get her morning coffee, and make any social arrangements.

Adjusting to our new limitations has taught us how important it is to enjoy the gifts we still have.  Instead of driving the kids to activities, the additional time at home forces us to interact more with each other.  The kids have slowly warmed to the idea of entertaining themselves in and around the house.  Complaints about the extra family time spent doing puzzles and playing board games have morphed into tepid appreciation.


Dark Clouds and Silver Linings

Twenty-nine months ago, heart attack and stroke put a cloud over our family’s future.  I remember looking down at my unconscious wife and hoping for survival.  Even though it looked bad at the time, I expected her to recover enough to regain our old lifestyle.  At the time, I did not accept the premise that she suffered too much damage to allow for a productive recovery.

Jess’ slow and steady recovery forced us to grow into this life.  Our family has watched her struggle and grow to become the person she is today, and it is so much easier to appreciate the things she can do… so much easier to appreciate all the shades of grey that now compose our life.


The Wisdom of Santa Clause

In many ways Santa is similar to God.  It is so easy to let our relationship with him turn into a one way street.  We ask him for the things we want and then expect to buy him off with a few cookies and a glass of milk.  This Christmas, Santa has proven that he knows my family at a much deeper level than I would have ever given him credit.  He knew what was needed and he knew that our hearts would receive his gifts better if they were received according to his timing.

All it took to change our Christmas around was a strategically placed gift.  Santa knew how much more that gift would be appreciated if it was received as a surprise.  The parable of patience plays a big role in all our lives, for we appreciate things so much more when they didn’t come quickly or easily.

Patience is a virtue that society has largely forgotten.  Every day we see people lose their cool because they are forced to wait.  Each of us are exposed to daily doses of drama over the tiniest inconveniences.  My family is no different… its members often say things like “I’m so hungry I’m going to DIE!”,  “WHEN are we going to be there!”, and “why can’t we do it TODAY!”

In the physical recovery realm, waiting is a reality that has been thrust upon us.  Twenty-nine months of slow growth has trained my family to accept that patience is the best recipe.  Early on, we expected to make gains in much the same way that a child expects to see presents under the tree.

Now every little gain is a pleasant surprise… every new development a cause for celebration.  The months of waiting and work have helped us appreciate everything that Jessica can do for herself.  While this isn’t a life we have chosen, the realities of living have grown on us to the point where we can truly say that we love it.


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2 Responses to “The Wisdom of Santa Clause (29 Month Update)”
  1. Leanne Parise says:

    Wonderful story, Jason!! You are truly a gifted writer. I hope Jess knows how inspirational her story is to others. I’m looking forward to having your family back with ours in preschool next year. I’m sure Charlotte will love it.

  2. annie says:

    Were you an english major with a concentration in writing darn good???? Oh that’s right you were a MATH major!!!!!! Tell Jess hi and I send our love.

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