All she wants for Christmas

That’s the problem; my daughter doesn’t want anything

It's always difficult to Christmas shop for someone who has everything, but what do you get the kid who doesn't want anything?

This is what we're faced with around this time every year. Christmas shopping is in full swing, and people are racing through the aisles clutching wish lists. But not us. Instead of stalking other shoppers for a parking spot at the mall and then racing around ticking things off that list, we're usually at home cajoling my 10-year-old into coming up with something she'd like to see under the tree – if only to make it a little easier for her mom and I.

No such luck.

It usually goes like this: The carcass of the turkey is barely picked clean and the first Christmas special of the season is coming on when we'll start the annual dance.

“What would you like for Christmas this year?” I'll offer.

“Ah, nothing really,” my daughter will say. “I'm happy with what we have.”

Fine. That's a beautiful sentiment, but if there's nothing under the tree on Christmas morning, I know she's going to be on a therapist's couch years from now talking about it.

“You must want something.”

“Not really.” (I swear she's dead serious.) “I'm just glad we're together and our family is healthy.”

What did I do wrong? Did I hammer “the true meaning of Christmas” message into her impressionable mind when she was a young toddler, possibly robbing her of the anticipation of giving and receiving gifts?

Actually, no. I think what I did was create a tradition that makes Christmas last a full month for our family. It's a long, drawn-out celebration around our house, so we get plenty of time to roll around in a potent and heady gumbo of candy canes, figgy pudding and myrrh. So when we're meeting up on the couch in front of “Elf,” or “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” every night from late November until Dec. 25, my daughter and I are in a constant state of Christmas fugue. For us then, it's a nonstop, wide-eyed, shrieking, sugar plum fest – Every. Single. Day.

Presents become almost secondary. Presents signify the finish line. By 10 a.m. on Christmas morning, that month-long celebration is drawing to a close. All the buildup has reached its crescendo, and we're slowly being eased back into the non-Christmas world. No more specials, no more nightly cocoa dates, no more carols and no more holiday-themed commercials. When the last showing of “A Christmas Story” has faded, Ralphie gets his Red Ryder BB gun and all is right with the world, the holiday slowly rolls to a stop and my daughter and I start the countdown until next year.

All that might explain it, but it doesn't solve the annual wrestling match of “what do you want for Christmas?” I honestly believe she loves all the trappings of the season. And when the big day comes, of course she'll want to be surprised by presents, gadgets and treats. It is part of the celebration, after all, and she's a regular 10-year-old kid.

So we struggle. We actually watch toy commercials, read store flyers and suggest things that she might like. And by, oh, the 23rd, she'll have a decent list. It doesn't leave us much time, but at least it's something to start working on.

Bill Burke is a writer who lives in southern N.H. with his wife, daughter, several gallons of figgy pudding and the ghost of Christmas future.

Categories: Dad on Board