Tuesday 24 October 2017

Big Santa is always watching

Santa's bringing a scooter, says Brendan O'Connor, but the naughty-or-nice surveillance is set to be a year-long thing

This is the first year that Santa is being revealed and understood in all his glory in our house. We were aware of Santa last year, but in a limited and very suspicious capacity.

We have a great photo from Kelly's in Wexford of a one-and-three-quarter-year-old leaping away from Santa like a wild animal whose safety has been threatened. She also knew that Santa said "Oh, oh, oh" and it was vaguely amusing for a while to ask her 'what does Santa say?', and she would give a melancholic, quiet, almost resentful, little "Oh, oh, oh".

But, this year, she is beginning to understand the nuances of Santa more. She is coming to understand that while Santa is generally presented as a benign character, he is also somewhat of a judgmental, even vengeful, god. Indeed, it is only recently that I remembered, and passed on to her, the information that Santa is an omniscient being who is watching everything that every boy and girl does, and one incident of not being nice can blot your copybook with him. We have set Santa up as the bad guy, who we must continually appease with offerings of being good, otherwise that pink scooter might not come. Oh yes, did I mention? She is getting a pink scooter with a bell on it, and I am apparently getting a white scooter. I obviously had no say in the white scooter. This was clearly agreed between her and Santa. I'm not sure it would have been my first choice. Not only am I iffy about the colour, I question whether I even want a scooter. But hopefully we will have sorted that out before Christmas.

Things get set in stone very quickly in our house, and you get bounced into all kinds of stuff without even knowing what you are agreeing to. And then the elephant never forgets. For example, the other day she was enthralled by some bunch of junior detectives on the box, sitting there open-mouthed as they went around solving crime. I kind of figured she couldn't know what was really going on, so I decided to help her a bit with some aspects of it. I started trying to explain the principle of a magnifying glass. She listened reasonably patiently, with the air of someone who knew I was missing the point of the whole show. And then she very nicely and slightly condescendingly explained to me what the show was actually about. "They're all wearing boots," she said. It turned out the crime solving and all that was just a front for what was actually a show about boot wearing.

"Would you like boots?" I asked. "Yes. Peppa boots," she ordered, relieved that I had finally got with the programme. I muttered something non-committal with no real timescale. Then her mother came downstairs and was told, "Daddy's getting me Peppa boots tomorrow." And, because Daddy is a pushover, he had to go around town, after some of the worst, snowiest, wellingtoniest weather in living memory, looking for Peppa boots in a size seven. There was barely a wellington left in Dublin, never mind Peppa ones in a size seven. I managed to distract her from it the first evening, but I know that one day -- I know not the time nor the hour -- she will ask me where the Peppa boots are. It's not over.

I found some size nines in Mothercare and I am going to give up and get them, working on the premise that I certainly never had wellingtons tailor-made to fit me. There were a certain number of pairs of wellingtons in our house, and you put on the ones that were closest to your size and made up the difference with socks.

The white scooter earmarked for me isn't over, either. You think it's gone away and then, out of the blue, it comes up again. My only plan for getting out of it will be to say, if it comes up on Christmas Day, that Santa didn't bring me the scooter because I wasn't nice. But everything goes into that little head, and I don't want her thinking Daddy is a bad man and feeling sorry for me because I did not get the white scooter, which was my heart's desire.

In the meantime, I'm mainly focused on leveraging Santa past Christmas. It's not right that Santa only watches people for a month. I think Santa should keep an eye all year. Hence, I suspect my kids will get the same kind of letter from Santa we used to get at home. It was a letter that made it clear he had been watching us and knew our major weaknesses, and it encouraged us to be nice, going forward. Just because Christmas was over for now, the letter suggested, didn't mean that people could go back to old patterns of behaviour. Santa. He's not just for Christmas, you know.


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