Everyone needs a break around the holidays, especially overworked parents. With all the stress that comes with trying to make the season perfect for the kids, sometimes it's necessary to sit back and enjoy the quietness of a Winter day. This is why it wasn't until I was a parent myself that I realized the secret reason my stepmom always had me write a letter to Santa.
At some point in December, I'm sure when I was being extra talkative or high energy, she would usher me to the living room. Under one of the end tables was a stack of catalogs that had been collected throughout the year. Not your average piece of junk mail from that store you made a purchase from that one time; these massive capitalism monstrosities had everything the store had to offer.
There, propped up next to the stack of catalogs, she would have a pad of paper and pencils, and I was instructed to write down any toys I wanted Santa to know about. I would be working for hours, in part because I was a child who was learning how to write legibly, but also because I had to turn every page to ensure I never missed anything.
Of all those years carefully writing down toy names, page numbers, and prices, I never actually received any of those curated toys. But that's really not the point.
Let's assume my childhood was not damaged because of not getting any particular toy. Arguably, I forgot most of the toys I wrote down because I was writing pages of requests. The joys of consumerism. What this little parenting hack did was give my stepmom some much-needed quiet time away from a very loud child. It let her tackle some of her mounting holiday chores, or maybe just sit and actually finish a cup of coffee.
As a parent now, I salute her and all of her Santa-hacking ways. I raise my cup of room-temperature coffee, surrounded by a pile of presents to wrap, and say thanks. You earned that break, and now so do I. Time to find some catalogs.