As all of you with children over 17 have probably already realized, Christmas just isn't what it used to be. No longer are the days of plotting a course through the toy store aisles, searching for that perfect Barbie or Nerf football. No more are the days of building friendships while standing in long lines, holding tightly onto the last Elmo or racing other parents to the counter to grab the last known Pokémon card in Modesto.
I recently passed by my old Christmas stomping ground, noticing a jammed parking lot. One desperate driver made a last-minute left turn into the parking lot before he even entered the center lane, causing several others to slam on their brakes and honk their horns. My, I miss those days.
Or do I? Now that I think about it, is it with sadness or joy that I realize my role as Santa has changed? No more staying up until they all fall asleep, no more waking up before they do, no more seven-page assembly instructions that not even a rocket scientist could follow. No more ringing sleigh bells while running to hide and stubbing my toe, and no more having to finish the cookies on the plate.
Wait a minute -- I liked the cookies.
Yes, my role has changed. But that doesn't mean the joy has disappeared; it's just changed, too. The days of seeing the surprised smiles on my kids' faces on Christmas morning might not be as they were when they were 5, but I did discover recently something that brought nearly that same joy to me. I took my 18-year-old son to one of the bargain stores.
As with most 18-year-olds, he has limited funds and gift buying is not a favorite pastime. Money would be much better spent on car parts, the movies, music or fast food.
He's normally a mall shopper. I laughed as I watched him grab a cart and began marveling at "all this great stuff for cheap!" Candles, kitchen and bath towels, shaving supplies and more quickly filled our cart. He continued to ask me if these were the right prices? I hadn't seen him this happy since Santa brought him his first Robocop action figure!
Swearing to make this his new store of choice, he wheeled around the place like he owned it, picking out gifts for everyone on his list. When he discovered the food section, it was like Christmas all over again.
There is an opportunity to experience Christmas joy with older children. Take them shopping with you, show them a way to save a buck or two, and watch them go! Now, as far as his gift recipients' reactions? Well, that's for another day.
Merry Christmas, Modesto!