Christmas advice for boys

An open letter to the boys who inhabit my house as Christmas draws near.

Christmas Day brings with it a lot of excitement. This excitement can make boys forget themselves and step outside of the bounds of acceptable decorum. When this happens, it creates a situation known as Too Much Christmas or TMC. TMC can result in a boy having to spend valuable Christmas minutes alone in his room, composing himself so he can resume his place in a civilized family before the Holiday gets away from him.

In order to minimize the risks of TMC, allow me to reiterate some general guidelines of behavior for boys of various ages.

Six-year-old boys

It is expected that you will wait until the entire family has opened all of their presents before you start tearing into the boxes containing your new toys and dumping the contents onto the floor. It would be wise for you to attempt to assemble only one new play set at a time, but if you insist on indiscriminately mixing sets, you should refrain from pouting when a crucial piece gets lost in the chaos.

In fact, you should refrain from pouting for any reason. This is your favorite day of the year. Don’t ruin it with a self-induced case of TMC.

Two-year-old boys

Santa brought you some very nice toys. Play with them. We understand that you want to help Big Brother build his kit, or tear it apart, as the case may be, but he doesn’t need your help. Yes, it’s sweet that you love playing with him, but today he has enough trouble keeping his parts organized, without your little hands moving things around.

Let him lose the first few pieces on his own so we don’t have to hear about how you ruined all his toys.

Eight-month-old boys

Don’t put that in your mouth! There are all kinds of little treasures scattered on the carpet today. Most of them are not food. If we don’t give it to you, it probably wasn’t meant to be swallowed. We don’t look forward to spending Christmas digging stuff out of your mouth, but we will if we have to. That’s not going to be fun for any of us, remember that.

Also, that’s probably Big Brother’s missing, crucial piece, so now I’ll have to hear about how you ruined his toys.

Forty-seven-year-old boys

Take a deep breath. You are the only one who would happily go up to your room and sit by yourself, but you are the only one not allowed to do it. It will be a madhouse, but you’ll get through it. You already had Too Much Christmas at about 7 a.m., but you’ve gotten your second wind. Yes, there will be whining and complaining – they will forget how happy they are at various points, but they will remember these moments fondly.  That’s the important thing.

Or maybe the important thing is when they’ve gone to bed and you can sit down with a tumbler of scotch. See? There’s always something to look forward to on Christmas.

Christmas cooperation

Nothing beats Christmas when all the little boys play together nicely (and then go to bed early).

They don’t make it easy on Santa

Our six-year-old had to be prodded into starting his Christmas list. Having to write down words and ideas is so far below the dignity of a First Grade scholar. It’s much easier to watch toy commercials and say “I want that!” at the conclusion of each.

Once begun, he threw himself into the spirit of his list. He learned he could be more specific in his desires when they were the fruits of his own mind rather than the mass market spit balls of the Toy Industrial Complex.

xmass list_Page_1 xmass list_Page_2

Those who haven’t been following along may find it odd that four lines on the list call specifically for German items. The rest of us are relieved that it is only four items. This leaves several items that Santa could plausibly supply to a child in the United States.

I’ve contacted Santa. Following is his assessment of the likelihood of supplying each listed item:

A German Subway SetSanta’s Response: “WTF?”

What makes a toy subway German? And what makes a train set into a subway? Are you planning to set this up in a crawl space under the floor? How would the kid even play with that?

A Police Car with Sirens that can light upSanta’s Response: “At least this makes sense.”

But doesn’t this kid already have police cars, some with sirens that light up. And aren’t most of them neglected or broken?

A German Army Truck and HelicopterSanta’s Response: “Kids in Germany don’t even ask for that.”

An army truck and/or helicopter I could probably do, but now I’ve got to have flags painted on them? The elves aren’t good with flags.

An iPadSanta’s Response: “Yeah . . . No.”

$o many reasons; $o little time.

A German Army Suit with a Beret (Side note: I wondered why he asked how to spell beret) – Santa’s Response: “This request has been filed with German Subway Set.”

Such a shame. We have tons of children’s French Army uniforms with berets, but fresh out of German.

A Call of Duty KREO SetSanta’s Response: “Well, KREO are cheaper than LEGOs.”

So if there is such a thing as a Call of Duty KREO set, well, maybe.

A Nintendo 3DSSanta’s Response: “Is that a real thing?”

I lost track when the elves were still making the original DS? We’re up to 3 now? Can it be Japanese, or does that have to be German too?

An MSU Football CostumeSanta’s Response: “Great choice of team, but how about we start out with a sweatshirt or some pajamas?”

He’ll get a full uniform when he makes the team. Go Green!

A Star Wars LEGO SetSanta’s Response: “Didn’t he just get a bunch of those for his birthday?”

Maybe if they have a good sale.

A Boom Co BlasterSanta’s Response: “Isn’t this just a poorer quality Nerf gun?”

And aren’t there already tons of lost Nerf gun darts hiding behind all the furniture in your house?

A World War I German Army HelmetSanta’s Response: “Cool. I’d like one of those, myself.”

But has he checked prices online? Are his parents willing to give up their first-born child in exchange? Does he realize who their first-born child is?


I’m not sure what happened to the last entry. He probably wants something he has no hope of spelling. Maybe I’ll just get him something that starts with B. Or maybe I’ll fill it in with A Big Lump of Coal – German Coal.


Christmas and presents

All the presents are wrapped. The stockings are ready to be filled. All that’s left is for Santa to show up and move everything into place in the dark of night.

Sometimes Christmas seems more like a deadline than anything else. But when all the goals are met with a day to spare, the relief makes the enjoyment of the Holiday all that much sweeter.

Not that my family is hard to buy gifts for. You don’t have to ask them twice what they would like.

The Kindergartener has made a cottage industry of asking for things. Any toy that is advertised on TV, he wants. Even if the toy is marketed toward girls, he’ll take it. He may not plan to use it as was intended, but Barbie’s jeep can always be cannibalized for spare parts. He wouldn’t look a gift Pretty Little Pony in the mouth. With a few, well-placed scuffs and a shave, it can be turned into a War Horse.

There are some particular toys he would most like to have, but he’ll tell you he wants every toy just in case you go through all the really good ones and still have some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket that you need to spend on a five-year-old. It would be a crying shame if you bought all the toys on his list and then stopped because you mistakenly believed he didn’t want the rest of the toys in the world.

toy soldier Christmas

Getting one last good play out of these old toy soldiers before Santa comes and overshadows them with new toys.

The one-year-old isn’t picky. A good toy to him is whatever feels good in his hand at the moment. It could be a clothes pin or a glass Christmas tree ornament. The only implied stipulation, where Buster is concerned, is that he would prefer that his presents be aerodynamic, should he decide to throw them at his brother’s head on the merest whim.

My wife compiles a short, but solid, list of presents she would gratefully accept. She takes the extra trouble to be very specific, in order that her new gift can be fully integrated with her past gifts. In fact, she would prefer it if I would let her go pick it out herself, just to be on the safe side. Once her “big ticket” present meets her specifications, I am free to add any lesser gifts to the periphery, just as I wish.

I am the most difficult person to get a gift for in our house. My wife fumes when I list things to her like shirts and slippers. She wants me to want something more special. Nobody understands how important slippers are to me. I hate walking on tile floors in socks. When your husband has psychological problems like this, buy him slippers. He and his prissy little toes will love you.

When it comes down to it, what more could I want? Tomorrow morning, my favorite gifts will be dumping out stockings and tearing through wrapping paper like it’s . . . well . . . Christmas.

What’s in a Christmas stocking?

Christmas is almost upon us and I’m feeling good about it. I’ve got my checklist pretty well marked up:

  • Reroute a couple of paychecks to to take care of the far-flung friends and relatives.
  • Sort through all the millions of toys my four-year-old has told me he wants, paring it down to the few that he will like well enough to make him forget the rest for a few days.
  • Pick out gifts for my wife to the best of my ability as a husband.
  • Practice looking contrite and saying “Sorry, Honey,” when my ability as a husband turns out to be typically husband-like.

The only things I haven’t quite gotten nailed down yet are stocking stuffers for the baby. Stocking stuffers for everybody else have been easy, but I’m having trouble finding little treats for infants. This probably shouldn’t worry me. After all, the child is not yet aware of a thing called Christmas, let alone that it should feature a stocking filled with goodies. A day of teething upon the packaging of his brother’s toys would be an unexpected windfall to him. He wouldn’t miss his stocking at all.

But I would. Stockings are an important Christmas tradition to me. When I was a kid, the only thing my siblings and I were allowed to open when we got up at, oh, say about 2 a.m., on Christmas morning were our stockings. My mother was an inspired stocking filler. The little delights she put in there got us through the hours until she and my father got up.

Then, there were cows to milk; presents had to wait because the cows’ utters wouldn’t. Then there was church. Those of us with enough foresight to choose to be on the Polish side of family that year might have gone to Christmas Eve Mass the day before. We got to play with the goodies from our stockings while we waited for the Germans to come back from church, because our Lutherans didn’t have a Christmas Eve service. We little ones were up for about eight hours before we got to open presents.

stocking hanging on tree

Baby’s first stocking. No, I don’t know the name of any blue-nosed reindeer, but I think he is soon to become a favorite of ours.

One year, when my older brothers played a practical joke by switching out my stocking stuffers for one raw onion, I retreated to a dark corner in the kitchen and cried like it was the end of the world. That was 40 years ago, but I remember it very well. Santa didn’t love me anymore, and it hurt. Even worse, I knew some boys in the next room who deserved an onion far more than I did, so where was the justice?

Even if my little guy doesn’t know about Christmas, or who Santa is, I want him to have a stocking full of happy things on Christmas morning. They may be little things, soon lost or forgotten, but I want to do my best to tell him that the people in his life, who are symbolized by Santa, love him dearly, and always will.

Letter to Santa

A letter to Santa, dictated by the big boy on behalf of his little brother. Since this note falls under Santa-client privilege, names have been redacted.