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Our presents aren't always entirely altruistic

Dec 22, 2017

Christmas is here once again, right on time.

I can’t say this is that big a deal for me. I’ve seen 53 of them – and really, at my age, if I really need it, I’ve already got it. Why I really need is less stuff, not more of it.

But my view of the holiday flips completely when I think of my son, who’s just two-and-a-quarter. He’s old enough know what gifts are, and asks for “Presents!” almost as often as “Ice cream!”

Because he’s the first grandchild on my wife’s side, and the first in a generation on my side, this kid is spoiled rotten. So, what do you get a kid who already seems to have everything?

Last Christmas we got him a mini-hockey net with mini-plastic sticks. He grabs both sticks, whacks the ball toward the net, and when it rolls wide, he yells, “Gooooooooooaaaalll!” Then he waves the sticks around, until he whacks himself in the head, and starts crying.

We’re working on the fundamentals, but I like the passion.

But these gifts also underscore a dirty little secret: our presents aren’t entirely altruistic. Many of them contain hidden messages, including every single one of my sports-themed gifts. I know you can’t push your kid to do almost anything – a lesson I’ve already learned about a thousand times. Even if Teddy goes along with it, it will suck out all the joy sports should bring.

I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't be disappointed if Teddy didn't became an athlete and a fan.

But I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be disappointed if Teddy didn’t became an athlete and a fan. Not for some greater glory, but to get from sports the invaluable lessons and pleasure I have. And also, I confess, to keep us connected.

My wife, a huge hockey fan, also hopes Teddy likes the sport. But she is even more passionate about other endeavors. She has already built a pyramid of shiny, wrapped boxes under the tree filled with finger paints, a wooden train set, and a Play-Doh set based on, my lord, Star Wars. She has based her life on their teachings.

I’ve seen exactly one Star Wars movie – the first one. I saw it as many times as I needed to, which was once. I hadn’t seen the second one until I married Christie. She has seen them all as often as George Lucas himself, but has more opinions on them. She is eager to make Teddy a Star Wars geek, too, right down to giving him an R2-D2 night light. (He calls it D2-R2, which pleases me to no need.)

To counter all this, what can I get him?

Whenever we pass the outdoor rink at Northside School on our way to his daycare, he says, “That’s an ice rink,” and follows up, very casually, with, “I’m a hockey player.”

Well, sort of, but even his half-Canadian dad, who started skating at three, thinks 2-and-a-quarter is too small for skating. I’d hate to see the kid wipe out all day, cry all night, and never want to go back.

He also occasionally says, “I’m a baseball player,” as if that were a title, but he knows even less about that sport. And how many kids can catch… anything… before they’re five?

I think I’m going to have to settle for getting him a mini-Red Wings hockey jersey, and one of those King-Kong oversized plastic baseball bats, with which he will proficiently whack everything in the house except for the oversized ball I’ll be tossing him. But in this battle between sports and a Galaxy Far, Far Away, I can’t afford to waste a year.

My editor, whose three daughters are already in high school and college, tells me I’m too worked up about all this.

“You think you’re making memories that last a lifetime,” he told me, “but it never really works out that way. I can’t remember anything we gave them at age two – and neither can they.”

So here’s my plan: no matter what he gets, or how he reacts, I’m going to yell, “Gooooal!” call it a success, and gear up for the next one.

Game on.