A Little Selfishness at Christmas
Can you remember the times in your youth when you needed a simple reassurance, a hug or a little word of encouragement? I'm sure we can all relate to similar circumstances.
Most likely it was a parent and in particular your mom who fulfilled that need at that crucial time. Dads, grandparents and other extended family members have come to the rescue, too. At least in my upbringing, they did.
Adult reassurances following a bee sting, splinter, or a doctor visit are rather ordinary. Other assurances involve emotional anguish more than physical pain and may not be so common.
Occasions in which children may seek out a guarantee from an adult may have involved the legitimacy of Santa Claus and his reindeer, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy..or when a grandchild asks, "What happened to Grandma?" during a viewing or funeral. Common follow-up queries might include: "Where is she now? Is she okay? Who will take care of Pappy now?"
The person giving the reply is often placed in an awkward position. Age-appropriate answers often do not come easily, and philosophy and religion play a vital role as we attempt to provide a reliable response.
Reflecting back, I think most of us simply try to answer these questions in a manner similar to the way they were handled with us. That is, of course, only if you were happy with those answers you received in your youth.
My son and his wife had their first baby three years ago. This new addition is our fourth grandchild. Recently I discovered that my son is not entirely sure how he prefers to deal with the inevitable questions that are sure to follow in the next few years.
Even though my son's upbringing was very similar to the upbringing of his two sisters, the answers to his questions were not met with the same enthusiasm as his siblings. Though our kids are all members of the same family, with common genetics and having been exposed to comparable child-rearing methods, the replies to his childhood questions have been accepted much differently by him.
Basically, he's contemplating being truthful but not insensitive as he tries to navigate the appropriate path through the common practice of parenting. He is not unlike the rest of us in many ways, and providing a viable solution to the dilemma is not easy.
Many parents never did explain Santa's existence in a fairytale manner. Some feel it's downright harmful to lie to their children. Others feel it's the spirit of St. Nicholas that matters and may use the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" approach. If you're a baby boomer like me, you may remember the 1947 movie "Miracle on 34th Street" when Maureen O'Hara was struggling with her 6-year-old daughter (Natalie Wood) over this very issue. (If you have not seen this movie, please do. The issue is clearly resolved at the end.)
Chances are you will be asked some difficult, possibly uncomfortable questions a few times in your lifetime. Perhaps this Christmas season a little one might ask you, "Is there really a Santa Claus?" My wife, a kindergarten teacher for 34 years, faces this question annually.
The Selfish Approach
There is simply no universal solution or answer to that question. To complicate matters, I have also discovered that I'm somewhat selfish when it comes to dealing with the innocent questions of children.
You see, I have found that I still need reassurances in life, just like a little child. You may be similar, too, in that the need to be reassured never does go away. The problem is that as we age, there are fewer and fewer people remaining who can fulfill that need. Perhaps paying the reassurances forward is the answer.
This is not a novel solution, and perhaps not one to be fully accepted by child psychologists, but please give this a try. Each of you, in your own way, try answering a child's questions by giving intellectually appropriate answers that also make YOU feel better. Ponder this for a moment: If your answer satisfies your self-assurance requirements and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, it might also meet the needs of reassurance for the little one. To be perfectly frank, it may qualify as a little fib, too. And if that description doesn't sit well with you, maybe think of it as temporarily bending the truth.
After all, aren't we all still children during this time of the year? Don't we all want to feel good during the holidays? And if this approach works well at Christmas, it might just work during the rest of the year, too. How ironic to proclaim that selfishness and a white lie here and there have worked fairly well for me during the holiest of seasons.
As I attempt to practice what I preach with my own grandchildren this Christmas, I predict that my selfishness and minor fibs will provide all of us with some much needed reassurance. With that, I find no need to apologize.
Truthfully, I wish you all a Merry Christmas! May Santa remain selfishly in your hearts forever.