Friday, December 17, 2021

The Last Little Boy Christmas

All week we have been hearing about the party in Link’s class today. At 9 years old and in fourth grade, he is so excited about the last day before Christmas break and telling us of the movies they will watch, the games they will play and the treats they will eat. We had to shop for stocking stuffers for twenty, snacks to share with everyone and “Dad, help me remember to take my card game!”

Last night Link packed up his bag and told me how he is taking a blanket and a few of his favorite stuffed toys as recommended by the teacher. This morning he put on some clothes and told me with a hint of regret that he had forgotten his Christmas PJ’s at his Mom’s house. Seeing as how I moonlight as Santa, I happened to know he had a set of red Christmas pajamas in the gift stacks. I consulted with Mrs. Claus, and we agreed they should be gifted early. Link lit up like a downtown Christmas tree, smiling from ear to ear as he pulled the red shirt and fuzzy red plaid pants from the wrapping paper. He quickly put them on and gathered his blanket, a comically large stuffed fox, and his favorite pink river otter (he has 5 stuffed river otters, one of which is pink). 

As he donned a Santa hat, he asked me with curiosity, “Do you think anyone will make fun of me for wearing PJ’s to school?” I confirmed with him that the teacher had invited everyone to do so and we discussed why anyone might poke fun and how to possibly handle it. I let him know that in the unlikely event he were lucky enough to be the only one wearing red PJ pants, a festive shirt and a Santa hat that this would be an awesome show of Christmas spirit. He agreed that even if he were the only one, that would be OK with him. I asked how he would feel if someone did make fun of him and asked if he wanted to carry a change of clothes. He said he wouldn’t like it, but that he didn’t mind the possibility and didn’t need the extra clothes. In looking over his outfit and gear, I thought it more likely he could catch some snide remarks on his pink stuffed animal rather than the outfit so I asked him, without indicating an opinion on the matter, if that was the critter he wanted to take or if he wanted to choose one of his other brown otters. He pondered it and said, “No, I want this one, it’s my favorite. If someone makes fun of me, that’s OK.” I nearly cried on the spot with pride in him and out of concern that this would be the day another boy or group of them would mock and point at him for choosing the toy. It made me sad to know, whether it be today or in the coming months, that he is nearing the age where so many children seem to make it their job to mock each other and point out how someone else is different. He seems well prepared, and I talked with him about how others’ mean words are really like boomerangs intended for themselves. Those who throw the worst are often the recipients at home or in other groups. I encouraged him to let me know how it goes and even gave him a few retorts for any insults on his clothing or animal choice that would show his confidence and lack of concern for any potential naysayers. 

As we drove to school, I could only think of the email notice received by so many of us indicating the school system is aware of the general threats made against schools nationwide on this last day of the session before Christmas break and all I wanted to do was turn the car around and keep my little elf locked up in Santa’s workshop forever. This is the world we live in. I must hope my son has a great party and while there is some worry over the natural social challenges of school age children, the sad fact is I have hope and pray his school isn’t the target of some kid with easy access to a firearm. 

Next year, he will be 10. I have a sinking suspicion this could be our last "little boy Christmas," though we might be lucky enough to have another year or two of him being as excited about Christmas parties and unafraid to risk the ire of others for not being cool enough. Today I hugged the little elf, he gladly offered up a smile for his picture and skipped into the school in his pajamas with his pink otter in tow. Merry Christmas little man, you bring the spirit to us all and I hope it lives forever in your heart. May your day be full of candy canes, sugar plums, songs and games! All I want for Christmas is for you and your sisters to come home safe and to feel no shame or fear among your friends.