Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nothing is Free

Its always amazing how creative companies get to lure you in. We ive in an age when even your contact information is bought and sold. Normally I am not the conspiracy theorist type, and I will go ahead and enter my name in a raffle knowing full well that what they really want is my age, demographic and phone number. I have worked in Marketing and I know the value of owning up-to-date lists and a big group of potential leads. What gets me though is how hard they go after kids. When I was a kid, if a cereal box said that they were holding a contest and any box could win, it was pretty straight forward. You open the box, it says Sorry you are not a winner. Play again. End of game. Now the cereal boxes lure you in and then printed inside is a code that you can enter on their website and view lots of other special offers and you cant find out if your box of cereal was a winner until you have completed registration and created a password and agreed to a huge legal document of disclaimers. I love hearing the commercials say "Kids! Ask your parents before logging on!"

I had an uncle growing up who prided himself on the fact that he never lied to his children. From birth his children were told that Santa was a generous person who lived many years ago, and we have continued the tradition that he started by putting presents under the tree on Christmas eve. Really its the child's parents who do this etc. etc. This particular couple felt like it was better to never willfully deceive their children and spare them the let down when they would inevitably find out the truth. I always thought he was just a big scrooge and I also noted with joy when his kids were little that they did believe in Santa, no matter how rationally it was explained to them. There was one unfortunate instance when someone questioned the oldest child Andrea about Santa and she replied "My dad told me all about Santa. Santa is dead." I imagine that incident earned them fewer holiday party invitations.

As a mother of a 6 year old and a 2 year old, I'm just now starting to come around to Uncle Mark's philosophy. The other day I over heard a conversation between Jack and the ever clever Isaac Sly. Isaac is a year older than Jack and has two older siblings who have clearly set him straight, although he is obviously still figuring out where he stands in the Santa debate. Jack mentioned something about Santa and Isaac cut him off. "Dude. You know that there's no such thing as santa, right?

Jack looked at him like he was nuts. "Yes there is. He brings me Christmas presents every year. duh."

"No, Dude. Its your parents. They buy the presents and put them under the tree and then tell you it was santa."

At this point I almost burst in to the interaction to change the subject and protect Jack from the hard truth. Then I realized that the kid is almost 7 and that this is part of the cycle of growing up. I could tell that Jack was deep in thought about it all too so I just let it lay. Eventually Jack came up to me and said Isaac says theres no such thing as Santa. Is he right? Luckily I am a genius of avoidance. "Did Isaac tell you why he doesn't believe?"

"No he says Cameron told him."

"What do you think, Jack?"

"Santa has always brought me presents. Maybe Isaac is on the naughty list."

"Maybe. If I were you I would just worry about your own list status."

Mom, how come if I tell you I want something from Santa that is really expensive you say that it costs too much. Why do you care how much money Santa spends?

I would hate to see Santa go bankrupt because of greedy kids. I think we do him a favor by keeping our Christmas gift requests modest. Plus, I know he tries to keep it pretty fair. That gets difficult when one kid starts asking for extravagant gifts. I'm just trying to help him out. He gave me a lot of great Christmases and He deserves some payback. I like to help make his life easier. Sounds like you have a lot of thinking to do. Try not to worry. I'm sure Christmas will be fabulous no matter what.

Then today he recieved his monthly issue of Highlight's magazine. They were running a promotion where you could match three (very obvious stars) and affix them to a card and mail it off. If you do that then they send you a poster map of a state with an accompanying book. The first one is free. No obligation. Totally yours forever. Then they send you another state every month for 6 bucks plus undisclosed shipping and handling. This will continue until you return one of their packages within 10 days of the original shipment date with a signed letter specifically requesting termination of one's club membership. Here in my reality, this translates into our mailbox being over run by unwanted maps and book with accompanying invoices that either add to the clutter of the house and create more tasks and eventually the company turns us over to collections and our wages get garnished for a stack of maps that we never wanted and somehow always missed the ten day window. I tried explaining this to Jack because he was all excited to send away for his free "no obligation" gift.

"Mom, it is free. Look. Right here. It says FREE. "

I countered by reading the small print on the back of the card about implied consent and how shipping and handling would be determined at the sole discretion of Highlights magazine and would be due and payable immediately upon receipt.

But I thought I won something for free.

Son, I have bad news for you. Nothing is free. Anything that sounds too good to be true, is too good to be true. Highlights wants to give you those free things so that they can screw you over later. Nothing is free. If you ever think something is, you have to look harder. TV? The network gets money for running ads. If they make more popular shows, more people watch and then they can charge more money to run ads. We watch the ads and then buy their stuff. No body does something for nothing.

What about Santa? What does he get out of it?

He gets the good feeling that comes with giving and he gets to do his favorite hobby and he gets to see happy children and know that he is reminding us of Jesus when he gives us presents."

"Well What about Jesus? What does Jesus get out of it? Why does he care what we do?

"Because Jesus is our brother and he is doing the work of our father and it makes both of them happy to see us succeed and to have meaningful lives."

This has started as a typical never ending why why why conversation that usually goes around in circles but when I answered his question about what motivates Jesus to bless us, I could feel the Holy Ghost rush in and confirm every word. It left me emotional and almost unable to speak. "Do you know how much Jesus loves you, Jack? So much that he died so that you can have a chance. He is your Brother and He loves you so much He gave up His life for you.

Then my little Jack says "I get it. I would give my life for Abe if I had to, Mom. He's my brother and I love him."

I was speechless. I am not a perfect mother but that doesn't mean there are no paydays. My Jack could understand a bit of Christ's love for us through the love he feels for his earthly brother. I couldn't have taught it better if I tried.

"How do you feel right now while we are talking about this?"

"I feel warm and nice".

"Do you feel like getting in fights or doing bad things?"

"No I just want to do nice things and hug and stuff."

"That is the Holy Ghost, Jack. He is giving you peace so that you will know that these things we are talking about are true. I know Christ lives and he is the Savior of the World and I know by the power of the Holy Ghost who has blessed me with this feeling when I have asked. He is also answering your prayers too. "

"It feels the same as when we sing Christmas songs or go to the temple."

These are the moments that make the hustle of Christmas worthwhile. These are the moments I hope he will remember when his faith is tested. When the stakes are much higher than the existence of Santa. Santa worries him and his heart can't quite find peace with it. The concept of Christ gives his heart comfort and calms him. Its these small moments that I think will ultimately shape him. I'm seeing every day the advantages of the tell no lies, take no prisoners approach to Santa clause that my Uncle Mark took. I always worry that asking him to believe in a being that can deliver presents to a planet of children in one day is about like asking him to believe in a man who took upon himself all sin and pain that ever was or ever will be and then offers the reward to us. I see now that kids aren't dumb. Sure its a process, but the Holy Ghost is there to help us sort it all out. We can know the counterfeit from the real thing. The joy from the pleasure, the lust from the love, The glass from the diamonds, the mythical from the Messianic. I'm so glad I'm not in this alone.


Stephanie said...

So cute Staci! And what a good little missionary you are! Teach, recognize the spirit, testify! You are awesome! Seriously the best thing about Santa is hanging him over your childrens heads for the whole month of December. Be good or else!

Kiera said...

Oh I love reading your blog!! So clever, and always entertaining! I'll have to turn to you for many future lectures i'm sure!!! We should get together soon!!

Carey said...

Beautiful Stace:)

Kara said...

Oh i cant believe i havent read this before! I am laying here in bed on a Friday night when isaac is gone, and discovering he doesn't believe in Santa anymore. How sad. Camerons in big trouble!! Its so funny because ever since Christmas I have been trying to hint to Maddy that he is not real, without actually breaking it to her, but I can see that she WANTS to believe SO bad, I don't want to ruin that for her! But she's almost 10! I didn't even pay attention to isaacs off handed comments about Santa not being real to think my little Izzy, my baby boy would actually be ready for that talk. Oh well. :/
So I sat shocked, then laughed, then cried all while reading this post... you are highly entertaining Staci. No wonder I have missed you so much. And some day when I actually get a computer I can check your blog again every single day for updates. :) oh, my life will be whole again!

Kramer Boys

Kramer Boys