Gum in Your Hair

A blog for parents under the big sky.

Never Too Old for Christmas Magic

:: WRITTEN BY ELEONORE SNOW ::

The other day, this happened: I was standing in line at Bozeman’s most fabulous gift store, Heyday, with a beautiful boxed tea sampler from some fancy tea brand called Tea Forte that I thought would be a perfect Christmas gift for my 19-year-old daughter to share with her college roommates. “We are all about delicious teas in our quad,” she had recently told me on FaceTime while sipping tea. See?! I had been listening, and then I went and found what I thought would be a thoughtful gift for my girl and her friends, something she wouldn’t splurge on for herself.

But here’s what happened next: As I stood in line, I boasted to some of my younger gal pals about how I was getting this cool tea sampler for my college teen, and they looked at me like I had just landed from planet Dumbass. “Ummmmmm” . . . said Lisa, kinda trying not to hurt my feelings, “don’t you think you’d be better off buying her a fifth of vodka?” “Oh, yeah … maybe,” I mumbled awkwardly as I shoved the stupid tea sampler back on the shelf, all confuzzled and off kilter.

Damn. Am I lame? The same question crossed my mind when I dropped my kid off at school after a friend told me that I should buy her a bottle of booze before heading home. I just didn’t feel right about it; couldn’t do it, no matter how cool I wanted to be. And I’m not even exactly sure why. It’s not about the drinking per se, because I’ve always encouraged my kids to taste the wine, champagne and beer that we drink at home. It’s more about protecting what’s sacred.

What does that mean? Well, to me, both the child-parent relationship and childhood itself are sacred, meaning that I always want my kids to know that I am there for them, but not as a friend – as a parent. Even as I watch my teenagers react against childhood and advance toward adulthood, I realize that it’s my job to not only celebrate their journeys into becoming adults but also to honor the child inside them.

As we head toward Christmas this year, I have asked both my oldest and my 15-year-old to draft their wish lists for Santa, just like I do every year. And they will oblige. But, as they’ve gotten older, these lists have gotten more practical and less magical, you know? Where they used to ask for unicorns and puppies now they ask for air pods and sneakers. And, OK, of course, I get it. But I’m not giving in entirely – and I’m also not about to get them a fifth of vodka. Every year, I always try to find that special surprise something that they didn’t even know they wanted, and put it under the tree. A stuffed animal, a fluffy pillow, a craft, softy pajamas, a game, a puzzle, a box of special teas, whatever. Something that makes them remember the magic of Christmas and the unexpected.

You’re never too old for childlike wonder. When I was a senior in college, a family friend gave me the most gorgeous teddy bear I had ever seen or touched. I named it Ted Eugene Bear and I backpacked across Europe for five months with it stuffed in my pack. Maybe I’m weird (OK, for sure I’m weird), but Ted was my pillow, friend and sometime soul mate when I was on the road alone. Thirty years later, Ted Eugene is matted, stinky and worse for the wear, but he’s still there – a reminder of that precious, fragile period when I was no longer a child but not yet an adult.

All this to say: No matter how old your kids are, they still need something fun, silly, fluffy, magical or totally impractical under the tree. So. I don’t care what my cool thirtysomething pals say, I am going back to get that box of fancy tea – along with some fuzzy socks, marshmallows and a teddy bear – to put under the tree for my teenage girl. So there.

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Like most working single moms, Eleonore Snow runs full speed at all times and sometimes goes to the store to buy milk for her kids and comes home with only wine for herself. You can judge her, it's OK.