Sunday, November 9, 2008

Buying Books instead of Toys



I sprung the news on my girls today. I gathered them around me, put on my serious face and I said:

"You know how you girls write letters to Santa Claus telling him what you hope he might bring you for Christmas if you are good?"

The girls nodded.

"We haven't written to him yet," Oldest said.

"He's not sick is he?" Angus asked.

"Is Christmas cancelled?" Youngest asked in a panic.

"No, nothing like that," I assured them. They all let out relieved sighs and sat back.

"Well, this year, I wrote a letter to Santa Claus. I asked Santa Claus to do me a big favor. This year, instead of bringing toys, I asked him to bring you books."

Angus and Oldest looked devastated. Only Youngest jumped up and started cheering.

"Hurray! More books! I love books!" she said.

Angus glared at Youngest. "She's only saying that to kiss up to you, Mom."

Youngest then kissed me, proving Angus right.

Oldest stood up, ready for her lawyer speech. "But Mom, you said that the rule was no more toys for birthdays anymore, only for Christmas. And you have already told everybody in the world not to buy us toys, only books and clothes. But now Santa can't bring us any toys? That's just not fair."

"Yeah! And I was really looking forward to the Mermaid Barbie swimming pool set for Christmas and now I can't get it!" Angus geared up for the big whine-fest.

I raised my hands and glared. The continued pain I have been enduring from root canal number 2, must have given my glare extra fierceness for they all shut up real fast.

"First of all, there are way too many toys in this house and I'm getting ready for another donation pile round up next week." Muffled groans quickly quieted. They know the rules. Twice a year, I make donation piles for the local homeless shelters, more if toys begin to accumulate outside the delegated toy areas. Protests only make the piles larger, and might cause the loss of a favorite toy also.

"Second, most toys do not have any usefulness outside of the 5 day play period." (This is my theory that most new toys only gets played with for 5 days before it is completely forgotten about.) "They are a waste of money, time and space. If you want a toy it better be the most awesome toy in the universe which you can prove to me will be played with all the time." (I believe there are only a handful of toys the kids really play with and cherish, the rest just take up space.)

"Third, if a toy passes the awesome test, and if you have done well in school, household chores, and manners, and if you have saved up enough of your allowance money, you will be allowed to purchase said toy at my discretion."

"What's discretion mean?" Angus asked.

"It means when she feels like it!" Oldest rolled her eyes. (Smart girl.)

"That means never!" Angus whined.

"NO it doesn't!" I exclaimed. "Follow my rules and there is no reason I won't take you to Target when the time is right and you have enough allowance money."

The older girls still don't look convinced. Youngest is perfectly happy, but only because I have a sneaking suspicion she doesn't really understand the ramifications of my rules. As they go back to whatever they were doing, I can hear Angus and Oldest whispering to each other. With my bionic Mom ears, I heard them say:

"We should write to Santa Claus and tell him Mommy is in a bad mood because of her root canals and to please not listen to her," Angus said.

"That might work. Especially if we are really really good," Oldest agreed. "You know, she's been acting kind of weird ever since the root canals." They walked into the kitchen and began raiding the pantry for snacks. I walked over to the wall between the kitchen and the living room to spy on them through the wooden blinds in the window.

"Yeah, who writes Santa to tell him not to bring toys?! Doesn't she know his workshop is for making toys!!" Angus was still mad. "Where's he going to get books? He'll have to go to the bookstore and buy them. That's just too much work to ask him to do when he's so busy. I think she is being unreasonable!"

"That's a great idea!" Oldest said. "We'll tell him the books are too much of a bother so just to give us the toys he has in his workshop instead to make his life easier. I bet he'd appreciate that! We'll get brownie points for being considerate too!"

They nodded eagerly and conspiratorially at each other. I tiptoed back to the sofa, laughing gleefully under my breath. I can't wait to see their faces when they open Santa's gifts this year!

23 comments:

Merry Monteleone said...

Ello, your kids are hysterical!!! And buy them a flippin toy, please, just one... I get the rule, believe me, my yearly goodwill pile is astounding, and often full of never used toys, but still...

This reminds me of a story - my best friend's cousin, who was a terror. I mean really a terror. Full range of swear words, constantly into trouble, the whole nine yards.

When he was four, his mother took him to see Santa at the mall. They stood in the long line, with his little sister fussing the whole way (she was an infant). His mother was about at her wits end, trying to keep him from untucking his shirt and messing up his hair before the big picture with santa.

Finally, they were the first in line and as the grumbly teenager dressed as an elf undid the little rope to let them in, her four year old ran barrelling up the red carpet before she could get her hand on him.

When she caught up, there here four year old stood, right in front of Santa's throne, little hands on his hips and one foot tapping as he said,

"Now listen here, santa, my mom's gonna tell you a bunch of lies about me. Don't believe her! I've been a very good boy this year."

Lana Gramlich said...

Sometimes I'm sooo glad I have plants. *L* Kind of funny--I fear I'm creating an opposite problem at my brother's place, as I send my nephews boxes & boxes of books (& only the occassional toy.)

Cheryl Kauffman said...

When Beth was about six, she noticed the strings on the side of Santa's beard. She pulled down his beard and screamed "You aren't the real Santa, what have you done with Santa?" Of course all of the other kids in line were horrified and I was so embarrassed. I had to explain to Beth that since Santa can't be in so many places at once, he has to hire helpers at Christmas time.

JaneyV said...

Oh you are tough! If we all say please will you get them just one toy? Puh-leeeeease!

Jacqui said...

Ello, I love this idea. I ALWAYS ask everyone to get my kids books instead of toys. I even offer to give suggestions in case people are worried about what books to get. And they never do it; they all look at my kids like "Oh, you poor toy-deprived honeys. Don't let your MamaGrinch make you worried. Gramma's gonna get you some Polly Pockets."

ChrisEldin said...

Well, they *do* make a strong case!
:-)

moonrat said...

your kids are waaaaaaaaaaaaay too smart. seriously, man. you're going to be in such deep doodoo in about 5 years.

Kim Kasch said...

Oh...but Ello my boys (who are 24 and 21) still have their Optimus Prime and others. And Kara still has all her teddy bears - which she wanted more than dolls. I always give tons of books but the Barbie Swimming Pool - ohhhh, that sounds like fun too.

How 'bout one toy and one book? I can't help being an advocate for the kids. Sorry.

Ello said...

You guys have no idea how many toys these girls already have!!!! You'd never know we are only average government and non-profit attorneys from all the crazy crap these kids have! And while we are at fault for some, most come from grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents and friends and large birthday parties which I have already vowed to stop throwing. Seriously, I already know that they are gonna get toys despite my request for books and clothes instead (relatives and friends are notorious for not listening to parents!) and so I must ban Santa from bringing toys this year. It will be much better this way (especially for my sanity!).

Anonymous said...

I say we "Scrooged" them . . . a nice cut of meat for each (OK at least filet, but youngest gets the petite cut).

Da' Man

March to the Sea said...

books are good..toys are good. Get the one toy they "really" want and that way they think Santa really knows what is up. Just my 2 cents.

spyscribbler said...

I SO agree, LOL! I buy my niece and nephew books every year, and I don't care whether they want them or not. I insist. They should have books!!! (They have very few.)

And they're pretty awesome books, I might add.

Melissa Marsh said...

Brownie points with Santa - LOVE it!

Larramie said...

Well, maybe Santa will slip in one actual "play" toy, yet the truth is that I give books for "Toys for Tots." :)

Conduit said...

It was tradition for my grandmother to always get me two annuals for Christmas. On Christmas Eve we were always allowed to open one present under the tree (I now realise this was a ploy on my mother's part so she could get peace to prepare for the following day), and I would always open the annuals. I'd read them by the fire, in my PJ's, whilst eating something from a selection box (most likely a Twix or a Mars Bar). I'm now getting misty-eyed at the memory of the Batman 1978 annual, or The Empire Strikes Back from 1980, and then there was a particularly good Spider-Man.

I still wanted my Star Wars action figures from Santa, though...

Sarah Hina said...

I was always thrilled to get books for Christmas. Toys, too, of course. And I hear you about how quickly the playthings are forgotten--it's a shame. Our garage has become a toy graveyard.

You are right that we can't control what the relatives do--no matter how often we tell my mom to lay off and not buy the kids more than we do, she never follows through.

I'm sure Oldest, Angus, and Youngest will still be spoiled plenty. ;)

Mom In Scrubs said...

Oh, Ello, I SOOOOO hear you on this one!! Seriously, each year, Santa can't even remotely keep up with what the In-Laws shower upon our children!!

In-Laws: $200 Scooter and all the accessories.

Santa: Play-Dough

In-Laws: Near Life-size pony that "eats" carrots, neighs, and can be sat upon.

Santa: Books

In my kids opinion, I am sure that Santa Sucks. (sigh)

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Ello,
For me, I think the best way to avoid the "gimmes" is to actually take them to the food bank and elsewhere. To me, giving to "Goodwill" means they put old toys in a metal bin. It doesn't mean much. The bin represents "poor people." GOING to the food bank or homeless shelter, or going to Christmas Mother, or packing things for an actual family to leave on their porch, etc. they associate it with real need. I give my kids presents--and yes, I think the 5-day rule TOTALLY applies. But I also feel like the practical way, for me, to combat the excess is giving in a real sense that they see.

I never thought the message was getting into my Oldest's brain. You never met a bigger brat when it came to labels and clothes. But I still kept dragging her (and the other three) places. Then when she was 17, she suddenly started packing up whole dinners on the nights she had orchestra rehearsal. I asked her if she was THAT hungry? I mean sandwiches and loaves of bread. Turns out she was feeding homeless down by the rehearsal hall.

E

laughingwolf said...

lol... brilliant, on all fronts :)

Jacqui said...

Oh, mom in scrubs, that is my life too.

strugglingwriter said...

He he. So cute and funny. My daughter has been telling us she doesn't like Santa, but then the toy catalogs appeared and all of a sudden she's having a change of tune.

Hotwire said...

books and art supplies are all i tell people to get my kids...

great work!

writtenwyrdd said...

So there will be toys after all, you wicked mommy. I love your kids' conversations.