Every Christmas, I encourage my son to pick a charity that offers children an opportunity to give back, and to see what it is like to walk in the shoes of someone less fortunate.
Whether that opportunity is in the form of volunteering to help serve meals to the hungry, filling boxes with warm clothes for the impoverished, singing carols to the elderly, or taking a weekend to go out and help prepare winter shelters for the homeless, Raff loves to help others.
As much as I love my son and want to give him all that his heart desires, I know that it is far more important to teach him empathy and generosity. My father did the same with me and it made a lifelong impact.
That being said, when it comes to Christmas gifts, Raff has always been good at not asking for too much. In fact, he generally only asks for one item.
Just one completely unattainable thing.
It varies year to year, but he is completely serious in his request and steadfast in his desire. And nothing else will suffice in that object’s place. It can prove very exhausting for a parent.
For instance, this year, Raff wanted to travel all around the world. Over Christmas break. No big deal, right?
“I’ve decided what I want for Christmas, Mama.” Raff said, on the way to school one day.
“Oh?” I said, cringing inside, knowing it would be something I couldn’t deliver. “And what are you thinking you’d like?”
“I want to go on a round-the-world trip! While I’m out of school for Christmas break. We need to rent a plane and start in New York City. Then go to Europe, then Russia, then India, then China, then Japan, then Africa, and finish off in Australia, where I’d like to pet a koala and a kangaroo.” He finished, looking at me with hopeful eyes.
“Raff,” I said with a sigh, “It would be nearly impossible to go to all of those places in only two weeks time, let alone to actually enjoy them and all they have to offer. Plus, I can’t take the whole two weeks off of work either. And when would you have time to see your daddy or MeMe and PaPaw?” I asked.
“True. Can we at least go to the Amazonian Rainforest and Australia? Both of those places have animals that can’t be found anywhere else!” He exclaimed.
“Yes, you’re right, but no, I don’t think we will be able to take a big trip like that over Christmas.” I stated.
“But WHY?” Raff whined.
“Well, for starters, you don’t have a passport. You have to apply for a passport to travel to another country and that can take a couple of months to process and get it in the mail. But we can talk about a place in the United States you want to go.” I said. I try to take Raff traveling anytime he is going to be out of school for a few days. Luckily, he loves to travel as much as I do. And apparently the travel bug bit him hard this year.
But he seemed less than placated with my offer. He pouted discreetly in the passenger side seat of my car. I dropped him off at the front doors of his school, assuring him I would think of somewhere fun for us to go over Christmas break.
On the way to work, I started thinking about all of the crazy things he had asked for over the years:
A rocket ship that he could go to the moon in.(last year, age 8)
A real hoverboard, not the kind he got for his birthday, but the one from Back To The Future that actually hovers over water. (age 7)
A real chainsaw, to cut down trees with of course. (age 6)
A dinosaur that would eat people. (age 5)
A wizard. (age 4)
The Jake and The Neverland Pirates pirate ship — not the pretend ship, an actual pirate ship. (age 3)
And every year he seems disappointed that his unattainable gift cannot be produced. Last year, when I told him that only NASA had rocket ships and that I was pretty sure only astronauts could go to the moon, he replied with “well I could probably build my own. Do you think you could order me the parts?” I assured him that I had no idea what all parts I would need, and that I was certain those parts would be well beyond my budget. So of course, Raff got creative, and one evening while I was getting him ready for bed, I overheard his bedtime prayers, where he politely asked for a UFO instead. Because clearly, aliens didn’t have to be astronauts to fly one of those to the moon.
That afternoon, when I returned to Raff’s school to pick him up, he hopped into my car and immediately began to tell me his alternative plans for Christmas break.
“Ok, I’ve been thinking. Since we won’t be able to get a portal pass in time to travel, what if we take a trip somewhere around here? And what if, when we go on our trip, we find some people to help? Because there are a lot of people all over the United States that won’t have food for Christmas. Today at school, we started a canned food drive because Mr. Wilson said there were a lot of kids out there that wouldn’t have food when they aren’t coming to school. By the way, I need a bunch of canned foods to bring to school, Mom,” he finished.
“I think that is a wonderful idea, Raff. I’ll start looking for a fun place to go that also has a homeless shelter we can help with. And yes, I’ll look through the cabinets tonight and see if I have any nonperishable food I can send to your school,” I said.
“No, we will need way more than that. Probably like a thousand cans. Maybe more. And, like, 100 boxes of macaroni and cheese. And, like, 400 boxes of…” he kept on about all of the hundreds of food items he thought we should donate.
I pressed my fingers to my temples to stifle the headache I could feel coming on.
So much for thinking that he had suddenly become reasonable, but I was thankful that he was willing to trade helping the homeless and less fortunate for petting koalas and kangaroos. And I made a mental note to look into getting him a “portal pass.” Maybe Santa could handle that one.