In the weeks leading up to Christmas, if you are like me, your kids deluge you with handouts, notices and invitations to volunteer at the school all in the name of celebrating the upcoming holiday. This would be fine if this is where it ended…but sadly… no. My kids then go on to tell me verbally not only the school’s plans but how some kid’s parents go all out with the holiday celebrations and send trays of homemade treats to the school and how they wish I would do that for them. (!!!) Before I sound too cynical, in my youth (years ago), when I had only two or three (kids) in school, I was the young mom, carrying the baby and hauling in full-size, homemade gingerbread houses full of candy to each classroom. Much to the delight of my own children who would then bask in the glow of fellow classmate’s appreciate as the ensuing afternoon turned into a zoo. Those remaining hours of the day were apparently quite entertaining as the children were lost in thought “scheming” to steal a bite from the house while the teacher struggled to keep the class on task. I never once considered the nightmare I had created for the class teacher.
Now years later, I am much wiser (although much older and tired). I have now streamlined my celebratory spirit to (sometimes) include a general Christmas card delivered to the school secretary on the last day before Christmas holidays.
The pressure to celebrate is alive and well in our school system. Enter “Secret Santa.”This is supposedly a program designed to have each child bring in a token gift to exchange anonymously with a fellow classmate. Sounds like something from a greeting card. The note home, at first glance conveys the thoughtful, peaceful spread of some holiday classroom fun…at least on the surface. “Secret Santa” started out last year in my daughter’s grade 6 class as a very benign activity spreading holiday cheer with each child drawing a classmate’s name out of a hat and shopping for an item less than $5.00 in cost. It sounded reasonable.
“Sure” was my answer to the 11-year old wanting to be the “Secret Santa” and shop for a surprise for her peer. This was doable as I had an entire week in which to make this happen.
Next morning, making the lunches the 11-year old says “I can’t go to school because we don’t have Rice Krispy Squares”-??? Did I miss something? Yep-apparently in the week leading up to the “Secret Santa” gift, each day there are to be special things happen to the peer (the one whose name was picked out of the hat). These “special things” are designed to give “clues” to the unsuspecting recipient. Well, to this “week-before-clue” thing, I said “sorry sweetheart, you will have to give some of your snack (carrots) as your special clue.” The answer …this boy (secret Santa kid) doesn’t like carrots …HE HATES THEM! I guess each child was to fill out a sheet indicating their favourite things and this little darling made sure everyone knew what he hated. CARROTS! (This vegetable is not normally a culinary custom at this time of year…not sure why the kids had to be so specific!) Oh well, packed up a conciliatory treat of some cheese and crackers as “the clue” for the CARROT HATER.
Next day, just before bedtime (when the stores are closed and I am ready to call it a night), the Secret Santa Helper announces that I need to pick up “Gatorade” as the clue for tomorrow! (Really?) Race out to the corner store, purchase the requested liquid and then turn into bed for the evening. Tomorrow will be a breeze…or so I thought. Next morning…more tears… the “helper” forgot to mention that it HAD to be BLUE Gatorade!!! I guess the CARROT HATER does not like orange anything! While out shopping later in the day, I found a few chocolate bars (on sale) and thought that would help with “clues” for the CARROT HATER. Next morning, more tears…”I can’t take in chocolate… my teacher said the next clue HAS to be a small toy!” UGH! (I am thinking I should take time off work and bake a candy laden gingerbread house, deliver it early in the morning to this teacher’s class and let the zoo begin…just out of badness!) Day three…I now have several little toys from the dollar store that can serve as clues. My daughter will be proud of me today as will the CARROT HATER and the teacher. As I proudly present “the clues” to my daughter (in the hopes of regaining some morsel of appreciation) I am told that this day the teacher said that the clue needs to be “handmade.” I am done. I tell my kid to get the teacher to call me. (NOOOO…gingerbread is TOO GOOD for this teacher) No phone call. (Teacher is likely sick from eating all the carrots other parents must have sent in for the CARROT HATER).
Later that night the daughter wants me to take her shopping…again… I ask why. Apparently we still need to get the Secret Santa gift (?). It is not enough that I have already spent more time, money and THOUGHT on a child I do not know (and I am beginning to loathe)… I now have to shop for a gift? The rules are:
- under $5
- nothing smelly
- no liquid
- must be thoughtful
- no cash
After an entire hour shopping for the CARROT HATER we are still no closer to find a gift my daughter thinks the teacher will endorse. Frustrated… I ask what about just enclosing a $5.00 bill in a really, really nice hand-drawn card?? This was answered in the negative (of course) all because the teacher said NO MONEY…period. At this point I am seeing the teacher as a diabolical force intent on ruining Christmas ahead of time with this demented secret-Santa scheme.
Christmas I thought was supposed to be fun. Instead it has become a make-work project engineered to exhaust the parents, create turmoil and conflict and somehow in all of this, the kid receiving these clues/gifts is to be happy. I will show you HAPPY! Finally found some puzzle, gender and colour neutral, toy/game that just squeaked under the limit at $4.99! Slam –dunk done! This was the official day for Secret Santa. No more clues, lists, late-night trips out, tears …WE ARE ALL DONE (carrots not withstanding). Hurray!
That is until my kid comes home from school with her secret Santa gift…you got it…a FIVE DOLLAR BILL! Naturally I need to know about what “clues” were given…apparently none. Why money when the teacher said NO? Because this giver’s mom said it was stupid to run around and shop for someone you do not know and that everyone accepts money. Then I find out the parent who sent the $5 bill is the CARROT HATER’S mom…who knew?
I think all matters regarding Santa should be left to the one and only REAL Santa. As for the teacher…there are no words to describe what I wanted to say… I think the teacher should get a carrot-shaped lump of coal in their stocking.