William wakes up from his nap and says, “Mom, I want to talk.”

He is in his crib, surrounded by his “sleep stuff,” which includes two pacifiers, a stuffed giraffe, and a blue and green patchwork blanket. His hair sticks up at odd angles, and his eyes are a bit puffy. But the expression on his face tells me he has an agenda.

I settle myself in the chair across the room, resting my hands on my rapidly expanding midsection, and say, “What do you want to talk about?”


I shouldn’t be surprised, even though we haven’t made it to Thanksgiving yet. Talking about Santa has become a ritual. Every afternoon I lumber upstairs to find my son contentedly awake after two hours of deep sleep. When I come in, he doesn’t want to get out of his crib. Rather, he’s ready to chat. Often his questions head toward Santa, presents, elves, reindeer, and the North Pole. Then he returns to Santa and presents.

Today, as usual, I try to reframe the narrative. “You know, William, at Christmas, it’s Jesus’ birthday. We give presents to celebrate because Jesus was born, and Jesus loves us.”

“Oh.” He sucks on his pacifier for a moment, as if I have just offered new information, and then asks, “Does Santa love me?”

I put my hand to my mouth to cover my smile, but he is pondering the answer and doesn’t notice. As much as I enjoy indulging William’s imagination, I am also starting to sympathize with the Reformation sects that refused to celebrate Christmas. Apparently, even in the sixteenth century, this holiday seemed disconnected enough from its spiritual underpinnings for some Christians to abandon it altogether. ...

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Small Talk: Learning From My Children About What Matters Most
Small Talk: Learning From My Children About What Matters Most
240 pp., 4.0
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