I Want

In that moment, I realized I have a much longer list for Santa than I thought. I may not want presents under the tree and an overflowing stocking, but I want. I want a list of things a mile long. I just don't want things that can be wrapped.
12/21/2012 10:31am ET | Updated November 26, 2013
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Mother with baby sitting by the window. Christmas decorations. On Christmas, waiting for a miracle. A woman with a child looking out the window.

When I was a kid, I'd ask my dad what he wanted for Christmas and he'd always say, "I don't need anything" or "The only thing I really want is time with my family." It drove me crazy. I could not understand why he didn't want to spend Christmas day surrounded by a mountain of torn wrapping paper and piles of toys, games, clothes and electronics. Thirty years later, his response to my annual email asking for his Christmas list was, "We really don't need anything" and "Spending time with y'all is the present we appreciate the most." Which is sweet, but kind of maddening. I'm learning to live with it. If he won't tell us what he wants, we buy him a sweater.

It seems though, that I have inherited more than my dad's cheekbones. Now that I'm a parent, there aren't many "things" I want. Most of what I need I can buy for myself and I get more pleasure out of giving gifts to my kids than I do in opening my own presents. I'm happy on Christmas morning wearing comfy pajamas, drinking hot cocoa and watching the boys rip through ribbons and bows. This does not mean my family is entirely off the hook. This year I asked for a casserole dish and some yoga pants. I'm only human, and I don't need more sweaters.

But at the end of the day, my list for Santa is short. At least for things you can bring in a sack.

The other day I was running errands with Little Dude and playing a counting game to pass the time as we drove from place to place. At one point, he paused before he gave me an answer and I asked him why. His forehead crinkled and he said, "Mommy, I was worried I'd get the answer wrong." He's not yet 5, and he's worried about getting an answer wrong in a game. Damn. I assured him there was nothing to be worried about and that you learn when you try, not when you get the answer right. We stopped counting and started singing. At the next red light I sent up a silent prayer that the gorgeous boy in the backseat will learn not to be afraid of making a mistake.

In that moment, I realized I have a much longer list for Santa than I thought. I may not want presents under the tree and an overflowing stocking, but I want. I want a list of things a mile long. I just don't want things that can be wrapped.

I want my kids to be brave enough to face the fears that might hold them back and move past them.

If they are afraid, I want them to be afraid of the right things. There's nothing to fear from being wrong or failing -- that's where you can learn the hardest truths. I'm ok if they're scared of being cruel, judgmental, or inflexible.

I want them to persevere.

I want my kids to be happy. Giddy and blissfully happy. Not all the time, but often enough that they have memories to sustain them when things are sad and difficult and painful.

I want them to learn to be alone but not lonely.

When they have choices, as Dumbledore says, to do what is easy or what is right, I want them to do what is right. More importantly, I want them to know the difference.

I want them to be foolish, silly, ridiculous and absurd. Being outlandish is fun, and you get great stories you can tell when you're too old to fly on a trapeze. It's worth dancing naked in your living room not realizing the neighbors can see you. Trust me.

I want them to be decent. It's an old-fashioned word, but it's the best one I know to describe people who are kind and loyal and honest and good.

I want them to have passion in their lives. Whether for a person, an idea or a profession, I want them to know how it feels to be completely captivated and energized by something other than themselves.

I want them to have babies. When they're older. Much older.

Before they have babies, I want them to have pets. If you can't handle a cat or a dog, you have no business raising a child.

I want them to choose loving partners and trustworthy friends. If they can pick people who like my husband and me too, that would be a bonus, but even Santa can't control everything.

I want them to be healthy and if they decide to experiment with illegal substances, WHICH I CERTAINLY DO NOT CONDONE AND HOPE THEY NEVER DO, I have my fingers crossed that they do so safely and for a limited time.

I want them to know we love them regardless of the mistakes they have made, are making right now or will make. They are loved beyond imagining in spite of, or maybe because of, their flaws. They should know, however, that they will still be grounded if those mistakes involve breaking the rules.

I want them to struggle. I hope they live in a dingy little apartment somewhere, subsist on ramen noodles, decorate their living room with a threadbare couch they picked up at a yard sale, and throw parties where they serve cheap beer and chips. That way, when they're older, and able to move on to a better brand of beer, they'll appreciate what they have.

I want both of us to know when to let them struggle and when to help out.

I want them to succeed, but to understand that success isn't about paychecks.

I want them to celebrate with joy and traditions, whether the ones we pass on or new ones they adopt along the way. I hope they're surprised when we show up at the door on their birthdays with their favorite cake wearing silly hats. I hope their traditions bring them comfort and a sense of belonging.

I want them to get their hearts broken, not only because it means they loved deeply, but because it will teach them to be gentle when it comes time for them to break someone else's.

I want them to learn to fight fair.

I want their homes to be filled with books -- piles and piles of books -- so that one day, when they find themselves stuck at home in the rain with nothing to do but read, they can pull one out of a nearby stack or shelf and get lost for an afternoon. I hope they remember that book forever.

I want them to know that they are capable and deserving of good things. They don't need to be their own worst enemy. There are plenty of other people out there qualified for that position.

I want them to believe other people are also capable and deserving of good things, including respect.

I want them to have long and healthy lives and a peaceful end to their time on earth.

I want them to forgive our mistakes and learn only the good lessons we are trying to teach, not the crappy ones we pass on when we screw up.

I hope when Santa makes his tally at the end of every year, they're firmly in the nice column, but not entirely. They should be a little bit naughty, because sometimes being bad is important too.

If all else fails, I want them to know that no matter how many holidays go by, they can always come home and spend them with us. Even if we've turned their bedrooms into a home gym and a library, we will always take them in. I would prefer, however, that they don't bring me a sweater.