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Back when I was a child, I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning. I daydreamed about the gifts Santa’s elves were building for me. I pictured how they’d look, basking in the glow of the Christmas tree lights as I came down the stairs on the morning of Dec. 25. Oddly, I’m still the same way now, but in complete reverse. Every year, Emilie and I give our sons a toy catalog and tell them to circle what they want the most. (If we’re going to spend the money, it might as well be something we know they want.) Without fail, they’ll circle almost everything in the catalog. Without fail, I’ll want to get them everything in it. I’m as excited to give them cool stuff as I ever was to receive it, almost to a fault. Emilie and I make a budget, but I always want to go completely off the charts. I see something in the store and say, “That’d be the coolest thing ever!” or “Let’s get them that!” Emilie has to rein me in a little. It’s like I’m a kid myself. Now, we do most of our shopping online.
enough, before the clock reads 7:01, they rush into our room. “Wake up! It’s Christmas!” As if we forgot. The boys open their presents as Emilie and I bask in their excitement. Most of the time, they’re ecstatic. Sometimes, we think we’ve gotten them the perfect gift, then they play with it for about 10 seconds. Most parents know what that’s like. The boys are always grateful. But they haven’t seemed to catch on to the gifts not arriving by reindeer-driven sleigh yet. I suppose that’s their way of keeping with the status quo as the presents show up in the den every year. Are they going to nitpick whether they come from Santa or their parents, and risk losing everything? Probably not. Our oldest, Zachary, is a Lego maniac. His room is lined with shelves that hold his favorite and most challenging models. We get him a large set to put together, sometimes 1,000 pieces or more. He’ll have it built within a couple days. Our youngest, Nathan, wants a smartphone like his older brother. We tell him he’ll have to wait a few more years. The only reason we relented on Zachary is because he is involved in after school activities, and we need to stay in touch. In the meantime, we’ll focus on Nathan’s other interests: his Nerf gun arsenal and chemistry sets. I’ve talked a lot about presents, but my boys know what Christmas is really about. So do I. With that said, I’d like to close by wishing my patients a very merry Christmas, and a very happy Hanukkah! No matter how we celebrate or when, our loved ones are what make it special. It was true for me when my parents gave me exciting presents, and it’s true now as the father of two boys. –Mike Ulmer
Emilie and I try really hard to make Christmas morning a joyous occasion for the boys. They get up early — sometimes 5 a.m. — but
they aren’t allowed to wake us up until 7. Sure
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