Tag Archives: holidays

My Son Is Starting to Doubt Santa – And That’s OK

santame

“Dad, I know the Santa Alarm isn’t real.”

The alarm my 6-year-old references is a tool we use to keep him upstairs on Christmas morning until he wakes us up and we’re all able to go down together.  It’s something my father did to my brother and I for years (more than I’m willing to admit here). I’ve never actually specified what happens if the Santa Alarm is tripped, but years ago Will chose to believe all of his presents would disappear. I never confirmed that fear, but I didn’t exactly refute it either.

But apparently he broached the topic with kids at school, who told him they’ve been downstairs before their parents woke up. Heck, they even opened a gift or two. Lo and behold, none of Santa’s gifts self-destructed or magically transported themselves back to the North Pole.

“It just doesn’t make sense, dad. It’s impossible for the presents to just disappear. That’s how I know you’re lying about the Santa Alarm.”

First of all, never underestimate the ability of small children to start huge and complex discussions just before bedtime. Second, uh oh!

This is the first brick removed from the wall. The initial pinprick leak in the dam. The chink in the armor that will one day spiderweb across the magical innocence of my son’s youth until it finally shatters into a million pieces and disintegrates upon impact.

And honestly, I’m torn on how to feel.

I have walked the Santa tightrope ever since becoming a parent. Before Will was born, I swore I wouldn’t perpetuate the Santa Myth. I was going to be that parent who didn’t unnecessarily lie to his kids. I was going to promote logical thinking and watch with pride as my son used deductive reasoning to summarily disprove and dismiss Santa. And if that upset the parents of his school friends, too bad. They shouldn’t have lied to their kids.

But then I actually became a parent and witnessed firsthand the magic that comes with Santa. Because it is real.

I loved his excitement at the thought of a larger than life figure coming to visit him in the dead of night to deliver gifts. How he longed to feed the reindeer and make sure they’re hydrated enough to continue the journey.  I envied the complete glee and wonder he displayed when one of Santa’s sleigh bells found its way into his stocking. Say what you want, but there truly is magic in it.

And yet…

When he started putting two and two together about the Santa Alarm being fake, I was surprised my first emotion wasn’t fear, panic, and loathing the impending loss of youthful naivete. It was pride. Maybe it’s the journalist in me, but I was proud of him for checking with sources, applying reason, and coming to a common sense conclusion. The correct conclusion, I might add.

In that moment, I couldn’t lie to him. Yet I also didn’t come out and tell him the truth. Instead, I applauded his efforts and told him we all need to gather information and use it to determine what we do and do not believe in. I was like a shrink, turning it around on him and asking “Well what do YOU believe?” I felt like a government official at a press conference in that I would neither confirm nor deny the reality of the Santa Alarm.

Is it a cop-out? Yeah, kinda. But I also think it’s best right now.

He still believes in Santa. I like that. But I also know today it’s the Santa Alarm, but next year (or the year after or the year after that) it’s going to be doubting flying reindeer. And then the mathematical impossibility of Santa visiting every kid’s house in one night the world over. And eventually, the existence of the Big Man himself.

I think too many parents mourn the loss of youthful innocence, while forgetting to simultaneously celebrate the intellectual advancements maturity brings with it. Both have a place in our house, and neither one is better or worse than the other.

One day Santa will be gone, but there’s still magic to be had as your children grow and learn to think for themselves.

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From Nightclubs to Netflix: How New Year’s Eve Changes for Parents

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Before I became a parent, the words “New Year’s Eve” sent me into a fit of anticipatory glee.

Maybe it meant going to a friend’s house and meeting up with all the guys to imbibe a metric ton of few cocktails. Or perhaps we’d splurge and plan to go to First Night festivities, followed by a night out at a series of bars and clubs where we’d dance our faces off and ring in the New Year in debaucherous fashion. Those New Year’s were always filled with a lot of fun (if you could manage to remember the night them the next morning), and I’ll always be glad I went all out in my capricious youth.

But then you have kids, and boy do things change.

My oldest is 6 and my youngest is 16 months. That means wild parties have been replaced by temper tantrums and wildly overflowing diapers. It means if anyone in our house is still awake at midnight, something has gone horribly wrong. And instead of dancing the night away at a crowded club with overpriced drinks, we’re far more likely to be getting down to Madagascar’s “I LIKE TO MOVE IT MOVE IT!” and spilling our sippy cups.

But don’t mistake that for a complaint, because these days I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This year, my oldest is REALLY excited for the Netflix original series called “All Hail King Julien.” The first of five episodes comes out on Dec. 19, and follows everyone’s favorite ring-tailed lemur from the Madagascar series as he takes on the looniest characters and adventures the jungle can offer.  And given the amount of laughing and dancing that will likely accompany this show, he’ll tire himself out well before the ball drops in Times Square.

But Netflix doesn’t stop there with the holiday entertainment for the whole family. Here are some other recommendations from a variety of sources.

For those who can’t get enough Madagascar:

madagascar

For kids who like to monkey around:

curiousgeorgexmasFor kids who don’t mind vegetables:

veggietalesFor people with the same taste in movies as my mom:

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For people looking for an underrated holiday movie:

dutch

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I was compensated by Netflix for writing this post. Although I did not receive monetary compensation, I received free Netflix for a year and an iPad Mini. However, as always, my opinions are 100% my own. Check out Netflix on Facebook.

 

 

 

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Christmas Trees: Should You Buy Real or Fake?

xmastree

There are two types of people in this world: those who buy real, live Christmas trees and those who hate joy.

The turkeys aren’t even in the oven yet for Thanksgiving, but make no mistake — Christmas is coming. And with it comes the age-old question of whether to buy a real Christmas tree or head to a department store to buy a plastic one. You can already see where I stand on this, which is firmly in the real tree camp. But when I posed this question online, I was startled by the number of you “Fakers” out there, who happily thumb your nose at Christmas with your artificial, pre-wired holiday spirit. 

But worse than that, I was devastated to find out my wife — who once shared my belief that the only REAL Christmas tree is a real Christmas tree — has gone to the artificial dark side.

Now, this isn’t a case of us living in an apartment complex that doesn’t allow for real trees, nor is it due to allergies. Those things are understandable and unfortunate. But alas, this ain’t that. This is about her being tired of picking out the tree, lugging it home, and making sure it’s straight and tended to. She doesn’t want to worry about watering it, dealing with the strings of lights, overloading outlets, and the kids and pets that inevitably tear it down. And she REALLY can’t stand the thought of finding pine needles in the carpet for the next six months.

There are certain things you discuss prior to deciding to spend the rest of your life with one person. We talked about the importance of raising our future kids as Patriots and Red Sox fans, and never dressing our family in matching clothes for family photos. You know, the important shit. And included in that was the promise that we would ALWAYS have a real Christmas tree.

But apparently unofficial vows made just before our legally binding wedding vows don’t count for anything anymore, because she’s bailing. On me, the kids, the tree, and Christmas in general. The only way I could’ve been more devastated is if she dressed my kids in New York Yankees gear and picked that exact moment for a family photo.

Now normally when these disagreements arise, I lose. Don’t get me wrong, I put up a good fight. But wives are formidable adversaries, and husbands have a tendency to strategically surrender so life can go on and occasional nookie can still be had. However, I just can’t let this stand. So sexy time be damned, I’m going to convince MJ of the multitude of reasons real trees trump fake ones, and keep the tradition alive.

So, the million dollar question, why buy a real Christmas tree?

First of all, the choosing of the tree is a time-honored tradition and beloved family activity in the Gouveia clan. Growing up, my parents would take my brother and I to the Christmas tree lot and immediately the entire scene became an exercise in debate and compromise. My mom wanted the short, fat trees. I wanted the perfectly dimensional tree that had no flat spots or bare patches anywhere. My brother wanted any tree that wasn’t the one I picked, and my father just wanted to point out the flaws in everyone else’s trees before he grabbed one we all didn’t love but could settle on. It was exhausting, frustrating, and time-consuming. And we all loved it. Still do.

Next we’d bring it home and get set up. We had a tree stand that was apparently made in the 19th century that was incapable of holding a tree upright. But that didn’t stop the three of us from manning the top and bottom, shouting “IS IT STRAIGHT?” to my mom, as she repeatedly said “A little that way…no the OTHER way!” I’m convinced this was retaliation for never allowing her the Liberty Bell shaped Christmas shrub she craved.

Next, after it was straight but still pretty tilted, we’d get the Christmas lights out. Naturally, those lights had been bunched up and thrown into a ball out of frustration the previous year, meaning the next 90 minutes consisted of trying to untangle the lights without one of us brutally murdering the other. Then my father would add tinsel. No one else liked tinsel because it’s messy and looks tacky, but I’m pretty sure it was his retaliation to my mom’s prior retaliation.

The rule in my house was the oldest child (me) puts on the first ornament, while the youngest child (my brother) gets to put the angel on top of the tree. As the oldest, I hated this rule with a passion because CLEARLY the angel on top of the tree is cooler. So after the prerequisite 15 minutes of me whining about unfair treatment at the hands of the “Golden Child” (my nickname for my brother), I’d throw on the most heinous ornament in our collection — a HUGE cigar that either looks like a ginormous erection or an unwieldy piece of poop, depending on your perspective.

Once it was all done, we sat back and took in the absolute, hands down best part of having a real tree — the smell. That intoxicating scent of pine for which there is no substitute. And yes, you can burn a pine-scented candle if you have a fake tree, but there’s no way it’s the same. Not even close.

Having a fake tree means a trip to the attic/basement instead of the Christmas tree lot. It means not bonding over rigging up the lights and skipping that feeling of accomplishment that comes with solving a particularly nasty tangle. You can also make watering the tree a chore for kids to learn responsibility. And the smell — sweet Georgia Brown the smell. That’s really the only reason you need.

You don’t buy fake, pre-carved pumpkins for Halloween, do you? Hell no. You buy fresh ones and get messy carving them every year. A little mess isn’t going to hurt anyone. So there are some pine needles? Big deal. And yes, I have pets and they like the tree. Did the cats chew on the lights? Yes, they did. But if you hate cats like I do, that could also work out in your favor.

A lot of this is tongue in cheek, of course, but I really am putting my foot down on this one. For me, Christmas isn’t Christmas without a real tree and it’s something I want my kids to have too.

So how about it folks, real or fake? Give me your reasons for each.

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Keep Kids Healthy Over the Holidays

lr_saline

***Disclaimer: I was compensated by Little Remedies for this post. However, this is one of those rare opportunities when we actually use the brand in question, and all of my opinions — as always — are my own.

Starting with Thanksgiving and ending with New Year’s, the holiday season often means we’re eating terrible (yet delicious) food. But the real problem for parents is we’re allowing our kids to do the same.

It doesn’t make us bad parents, it just makes us human. Many kids (my own son included), spend December starting off each and every day by eating a piece of chocolate from the advent calendar. Come Christmas we’re knee-deep in candy, chocolate, pie, and cake as we flit from house to house visiting relatives who all want to (justifiably) spoil the little ones and give them treats. I get it.

But there are ways to mitigate the damage and keep kids healthy over the holidays.

Continue reading Keep Kids Healthy Over the Holidays

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New Year’s Lost

I made New Year’s Eve plans all the way back in May.

I envisioned a truly special night. I had a little room booked for me and the wife. Nothing fancy and we weren’t going to travel far, just a few towns over to Hyannis. Some of our friends would’ve come with us but there would have been plenty of other people around too who would devote themselves to us, take care of us and cater to our every need. All the anticipation would’ve built up and then just after the stroke of midnight, a new year and a new life would have begun.

Alex was scheduled to be born on New Year’s Eve.

Usually I love celebrations. Christmas, New Year’s, anniversaries, birthdays—if there was a reason to party I was going to be first in line. But since we lost Alex, I just don’t feel it anymore. Christmas was fun, but subdued. I didn’t even go out and get a tree. I’m going out for New Year’s, but mainly it’s to be around good friends who I know can put up with me when I’m drunk. Which I most definitely will be. And as an added kick to the testicles, MJ and I have our fifth wedding anniversary coming up on Jan. 13.

Normally I’m the one who makes a big deal out of birthdays and anniversaries. I remember the exact day I first kissed MJ and the day we first made love. MJ, on the other hand, has forgotten my birthday on more than one occasion and simply isn’t one to celebrate sentimental milestones. Usually I just ignore her and plan something fun anyway, but this year I didn’t plan anything because I don’t feel like celebrating and I figured she wouldn’t mind.

Well, she does mind. She’s really upset we’re not making a big deal out of our anniversary. She misses me and wants to spend time with me. I miss her too and I really do love her more than ever.

But I physically ache when I look at her.

She should be HUGE right now. Her gigantic belly should be just about to explode. I’m supposed to be massaging her swollen feet and making midnight runs to get her weird food combinations. We’re supposed to have a bag packed for the hospital and I should be at work, checking my cell phone every four seconds, waiting for the “IT’S TIME!” phone call.

The crib is supposed to be ready and decked out with bright new pink sheets. Girl clothes and all that cute shit should be overflowing from the nursery as relatives call everyday to get progress reports so they can be the first to show up at the hospital. Will is supposed to be ridiculously excited (and slightly pissed off and jealous) to become a big brother. I would have purchased a newborn-sized Patriots cheerleader outfit she could wear on Sundays.

And if she held on until New Year’s Day, maybe she would’ve been the Cape’s first baby of 2011. A reporter’s kid as the New Year’s baby with a front page spread. It would’ve been perfect.

But things are not perfect.

MJ doesn’t think Alex was a person. She thinks we lost a fetus, nothing more than a damaged collection of cells that failed to survive. I don’t hold that against her at all, and in fact I’m rather envious she can reconcile things like that. I wish I could convince myself to feel that way but I can’t.

I admit I didn’t know how to feel when we lost Alex. On one hand we’re talking about a 16-week-old fetus I never met. Technically we don’t even know it was a girl (although in my mind she was). So how do you grieve someone who you’re not even sure counts as an actual person? I don’t know the answer to that, but I think it’s at the heart of my struggle. MJ and I talked recently and because she’s much smarter than I am, she made me realize my heart has been treating this like the death of a loved one, but my brain is constantly trying to convince me that’s not the case. Therefore I never really dealt with it. Each time I tried to I’d get about halfway and then pull myself back because I’d tell myself this wasn’t a “real” loss.

But it was real for me. Whether I’m right or wrong, I see what happened as the death of a child. I know it doesn’t compare to the actual death of a living child several years old (a horror I selfishly hope I never encounter), but at times it feels that way to me. And instead of repressing that thought I need to deal with it so I can move on and be a better husband and father.

I’ve always viewed therapists and counselors as helpful people who are great options—for other people. Never me. You’d sooner see me in a Yankees hat than talking to some quack and admitting I couldn’t handle my own problems. Despite the fact I’ve seen it work for MJ with wonderful results, the thought of me on that couch is one of the most terrifying and embarrassing things I can imagine.

But the only thing worse is spiraling to the point that nothing makes me happy, my wife feels lonely and my son constantly tells me to cheer up. I don’t want that and won’t have it. I’m better than that and my family deserves better as well.

I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution in earnest. But for 2011, I’m hoping I can conjure up enough testicular fortitude to admit to my shortcomings and do something about it.

Happy New Year.

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