The only thing my boys wanted this Christmas was a dollhouse. They were nearing six and three but that was it. Not video games, not action figures, not Legos, not remote control vehicles, not even candy canes. Every time someone asked them what they wanted from Santa, they loudly proclaimed, “A dollhouse!” They had played extensively with a big pink one at the home of friends who hosted us for Thanksgiving. A few appliances made noises. I think a doorbell rang. It left an impression.
What to get them for Christmas was clearly a no brainer. Despite how much effort I’ve put forth to try to not have gender stereotypes influence parenting, as well as how we actively try to lessen stigma, I couldn’t get over the pink dollhouse hurdle. I looked on craigslist for weeks, totally drawn to the wooden ones with modern designs that felt like they’d stand the test of time better. I assumed pink wouldn’t survive peer pressure. I knew Charlie really wanted the same kind he had played with, though.
Christmas came and there was no dollhouse. I couldn’t find one on craigslist and we didn’t want to buy one new. We opted instead for your typical dollhouse stand-ins: Legos. They can be made into as many types of houses as you can imagine, right? Embarrassingly, because we’re horrible procrastinators when it comes to presents, the Legos we ordered didn’t arrive in time despite saying they’d show Christmas Eve. I realize that’s cutting it close, but that’s our style. (I hate most forms of shopping. I would rather pick someone else’s nose than visit a mall these days.) On December 24th I kept checking our front porch. By 10pm, we accepted their fate. We had very few gifts but we decided to just see how the morning went. Historically, our boys didn’t have high expectations around holidays (I think no exposure to advertisements really helps this), so I wasn’t too worried about them being sad in the midst of it all.
One of the gifts they did receive from a friend was a Paddington Christmas book. We first read it a few days after Christmas. In it, Paddington comments how special it was that Santa knew exactly what he wanted and gave him his favorite orange marmalade. Charlie teared up, “Why didn’t Santa do that for me?”
My stomach sank. His first Christmas heartache. He hadn’t shown any disappointment that day, but clearly had felt it. I don’t think the Legos actually arriving in time would’ve prevented this sadness, either. He wanted a pink mansion.
My first inclination was to order one and put a note on it from Santa that said, “Sorry it was late! It fell out over Antarctica and I just found it!” But, Harry and I decided we didn’t want to lie. We’ve actually never told them we believe in Santa. We haven’t told them he isn’t real, either, but we haven’t perpetuated Santa much. We let it be a story and acknowledge their comments about him like a story. We don’t leave his name on gifts, we don’t get annual pictures with him, etc… Besides, shouldn’t we get the credit? I like it when parents have Santa give kids socks and they give the fun stuff. Maybe Santa should stick to socks or underwear. I think my childhood Santa always gave me hose. Yes, that kind. Leg stockings. I guess my mom and I think alike on these matters.
Anyways, a few days later we told Charlie that we could buy one with a vague explanation about what had happened on our end. (We had returned the Legos without them knowing because all was fine Christmas morning.) We looked online at the options in our price range. We looked on craigslist. And what did he pick? The biggest pink mansion in town. With a mom, dad and twin babies.
Unlike the dollhouse of my youth, this one has superheros jump through windows, converts into a train station, experiences serious earthquakes, gets hit by meteors or other projectiles and usually has people battling each other in it. The zombies are a particularly interesting addition. RIght now, there are ribbons hanging out the windows for repelling. I don’t even try to make sure that the babies stay out of harm’s way. They’ve been run over by a dumptruck too many times to count.