Justin here. Today is Sunday, my one day off for this weekend. As I came down the stairs of our condo this morning, I realized we forgot to take the elves off the Christmas tree and make them do something. This is our tradition, the elves reappear on thanksgiving night and move around every night, usually offering some small trinket of piece of candy for our daughter, Lilith. It made me feel like the worst dad in the world to realize we forgot. There was no excuse for it.
Lace and I sat on the couch early last night and had a long discussion that was spiritual in nature, and then we watched a little bit of TV before going up to bed. In the past, we’ve had hours long arguments and fights and still didn’t neglect to put on some kind of scene with Lilith’s elves, as well as have them offer up some kind of treat.
Lilith said this morning, “The elves didn’t do anything,” and Lace made it a teaching moment because Lilith had broken the rules this morning by repeatedly peeking in on us before we were ready to wake up and get out of bed. So the elves saw she wasn’t doing good listening and stayed on the tree.
Lilith accepted that answer and went about her day. That was it. Her childhood wasn’t ruined. Our relationship with her wasn’t ruined. I realized I felt way worse about it than she did. She was spoiled in years past by expecting these elves to put on elaborate scenes and offer up snacks and toys, like a mini holiday every day counting down from Thanksgiving to Christmas. This was an expectation we created, and we are dialing it down a notch this year. Lilith still gets a kick out of her magical elves doing simple things like bringing a single Hershey kiss and she gets taught to appreciate what she has while still needing to do good listening.
Forgetting to move the elves reminded me of when I was little and the tooth fairy forgot to visit and leave money under my pillow. It happened more than once. She would conveniently sneak in and rectify this wrongdoing when I was brushing my teeth that morning. I don’t know in retrospect if my parents forgot or if they were afraid of waking me, but I realize in any case that I didn’t feel any less loved at the time to wake up and find my baby tooth still under my pillow in the morning. I believed the tooth fairy was a bit of a dingus, but that didn’t ruin my childhood either.
I realize we project how we think our children are going to feel in times like this. I’m the only one who was gravely disappointed over the elves, but I could have easily taught Lilith to be more disappointed as well by martyring her in the situation. As parents, we can teach our children to become spoiled and manipulative in moments like this if we aren’t careful. I realize that even if I made a mistake as a parent, life has to go on. I’ve made far greater mistakes than forgetting the elves.
The time clock at work yesterday informed me that my total hours logged for the week was “2 days, 1 hour, and 7 minutes.” 49 hours sounds much more reasonable, but this payroll system likes to use that phrasing, forcing me to realize that I surrendered over two full days of life slaving for money this week. That hurts far worse than forgetting the elves, and it is something that our plans – to downsize from this condo and eventually move away – seek to fix.
I know looking back at my childhood that it hurts far worse that my dad wasn’t there for dinner 3 nights a week. I could care less about the tooth fairy. I would’ve survived if Santa didn’t bring a thousand gifts or didn’t bring me something I specifically asked for (my list was eventually a mile long, and I even added up the total money cost into the thousands!), but I would like to go back and have my dad home for dinner every night. That’s one projection into my daughter’s life that I know I’m getting right.