Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney

A Letter To My Children On What I Really Want For Them This Holiday Season

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To my dearest children, who were once sweet babies who wanted nothing more than to be held, but now specifically want an elder wood wand with a Thestral tail core:

The holidays are upon us once again and with them comes an avalanche of “hot new toys” (which, full disclosure, Romper has just listed at length) that have wheedled their way into your heart and trigger a fever dream every time someone clangs a bell outside the supermarket. But hey, I remember P.J. Sparkles and Puppy Surprise and Ferby and Pogs. I get it. So what I want for you is this year's version of that toy, if you want it. And I will tolerate having that toy — and its habit of singing from inside the box in the back of my closet — in our house, but I want much, much more for you. Because even though it may not seem like it when we're denying you screen time, dessert, and "just five more minutes" at 8 p.m., we parents want to give you the world, and in the whirlwind of the holiday season, that feels just a little more possible.

What I want for you, my babies, is to create legit. holiday. magic. I want to give you the feeling the Grinch has after his heart breaks the little x-ray. I want you to feel as warm and comforting as a fully lit menorah looks. I want to give you a robot pet capable of machine-learning, yes, but I also want to give you the gift of experiences that make you look at the world around you, even when it feels like it's a hopeless dumpster fire, and realize there is beauty and goodness worth saving or, in some dark places, worth creating.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney

I've started the holiday list early this year, so that we might have room for *this* kind of hope, as well as some presents (not just the crass, over-marketed, hyper-socially engineered "it gift" that will wind up forgotten at the bottom of your toy box within a month).

[Oh hello, sweetheart. Mommy is writing a letter. It's a letter for you actually, so... what's this? A catalog? You want to put this on your list for Santa? Let me see. Oh. Another Lego set? Really? Because you have, like, 904 Lego sets. Do you really need another "extender pack"? Because, cupcake, I'm pretty sure I could create another set for you with the blocks currently stuck in my foot because you never pick them up off the godd*mn floor.]

I also want to give you the gift of experiences that make you look at the world around you, even when it feels like it's a hopeless dumpster fire, and realize there is beauty and goodness worth saving or, in some dark places, worth creating.

I want to give you a few, simple, quiet gifts that don't require batteries. Toys that will stir your imagination and spark your creativity. Gifts that will entertain you but also remind you that this time of year isn't about rubbing an egg for 12 hours until a soft toy with hard innards toddles out. (And, for real, can we talk about that for a second, because you can't wait 30 seconds for me to turn on another episode of Paw Patrol without crying but you'll patiently stare at an egg for hours on end?) It's about the feelings that gift inspires in our hearts.

[Baby girl, mommy is working on something right now so, no, I don't want to watch this unboxing video on YouTube. I'm writing. Wait. What the... what is that? That is the ugliest doll I've ever seen. It looks like a monkey that fell in neon pink paint and glitter and has been cursed by God. Why on Earth would you want to go to sleep next to that thing? I'd be low-key terrified, TBH. What do you mean you want it more than anything? You didn't know it existed 14 seconds ago and you'll forget about it in another 14.]

It's just that this time of year is so pure and wonderful and...

[You really have no sense of personal space or respect for my time, do you? What? No, you're not getting a toy gun as a present. Absolutely not. I will not allow it. I don't care if it doesn't really look like a gun. Why do you even want it? How do you know what a gun is — we have been very careful about shielding you from even the most cartoonish of violence. Guns are the opposite of the holiday season... No, you can't ask Grandma! NOTE TO SELF: write letter to Grandma on setting "limits" this year.]

Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney

Like I was saying, the important thing about this time of year, my darlings, is that we remember that it's not the gifts that make the holidays joyful, it's...

[What is it? You're done marking the catalog? Let me see... OK, dude, there's literally not one toy in here you haven't circled. I'm sorry, but you are not getting everything you're asking for. You're going to get, like, five gifts. And do they all need to be branded properties from corporations that just want to sell you more thoughtless toys that promote violence and gender stereotypes? Don't you want, like, maybe some watercolor paints? Or what about this simple, handcrafted doll made of recycled, all-natural fibers? Isn't it whimsical? Don't you feel it captures the non-commercial spirit of holiday joy? No?]

You know what, kids? You are sweet and precious and kind and loving... but even so, you and all other children are gift-grabbing little toy zombies who are susceptible to any and all advertising because your brains are apparently wired to want stupid things with zero sentimental value. I know I said I wanted to give you the world but I didn't think you'd take that quite so literally.

Look, here's the deal, guys: as a kid, I was one of those lucky children for whom the holidays were idyllic. Every year was like A Christmas Carol, but, you know, the end of A Christmas Carol when everyone is happy and Tiny Tim isn't dead. And then I got older (as one does) and the holidays were fine, but nothing compared to what they were when I was a kid. I never thought I would recapture the sparkle of my childhood holidays. But, as it turns out, it's even more amazing as a parent.

I want you to spend a holiday season with your big loud family and feel the energy and excitement of that time.

You make me remember what it is to be a child, but on top of that just giving you a happy holiday in and of itself is an entirely new, uniquely joyful feeling. I want you to feel that, somehow — to feel the way you make me feel — and there's so much more to it than just giving you elaborately wrapped, superhero-branded light-up sneakers.

I want you to spend a holiday season with your big loud family and feel the energy and excitement of that time, even if you don't remember the specifics in 10 or 20 years. I want you to remember running downstairs in your matching pajamas to the pile of presents, which are always somehow better wrapped, somehow fuller of promise before the surprise is gone. And one day, if you choose to have children, I want these memories to inspire the ones you make with your own kids. I hope then you'll understand what I'm trying to do now.

But, apparently, the tie-dyed, half-size horse that walks and neighs after you insert $700 of D batteries and that Build-It-Yourself AI robot butler are what make you happy. So fine. You win: crass, commercial, plastic Giftmas it is. Maybe we can do it my way next year.

Happy friggen Holidays, you greedy little monsters.

I love you,

Mom