How We “Do” Santa

No, this is not the title of an erotic fanfic about Santa and Mrs. Claus. Get your minds out of the gutters.

I’m in this network of parenting groups on facebook that are mostly positive. They’re non-judgemental, free of anti-vaxxers, and no one uses “DH” to describe their partners. But once a year they blow up. It’s not about breastfeeding vs. formula or working moms vs. stay-at-home moms. It’s about Santa.

One kid tells another kid Santa isn’t real. The first kid’s mom feels guilty about it and makes an innocuous post in a parenting group. The internet explodes into chaos.

As a former child raised as someone who knew Santa was a myth, I never realized how important he is to some people. I assumed parents didn’t want their kids to find out the truth because then they wouldn’t be able to use it as a behavior incentive. (That always felt a little icky to me, but I’m trying not to be judgmental.) For most parents it’s about magic.

They want to create a magical experience for their children. That magic is tied up in a belief in Santa. They remember believing in Santa as a child themselves. They plan how they want to tell their children that Santa, as a person, isn’t real, but anyone can be Santa to someone else by sharing a joyful giving spirit. I can’t judge that. I see how they don’t want some smarter-than-you kid messing it all up for their child.

My kid. Because I’m not going to tell my son Santa is real.

We want to make our kids childhoods “magical”. There are huge amusement parks dedicated to creating magical experiences for children. Families come in droves to spend money and wait in un-air conditioned lines next to other sweaty families to experience some magic.

I don’t need Santa to add some magic to my son’s childhood because childhood is already full of magic.

I remember being a kid and knowing magic wasn’t real, but still feeling like it was part of my life. I was new to the world and everything seemed amazing. If Arthur C Clark is right, and “magic is just science we don’t understand yet”, then everything is magic for little kids.

Christmas lights. Fairy tales. Baking. Bubbles. All of these things felt like magic to me when I was a kid.

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When I was a kid, Christmas lights made me feel like I’d been transported to fairyland. Christmas lights are magic. Photo by Geert Pieters on Unsplash

You know what else felt like magic? Pretending in Santa. I knew Santa wasn’t a real person who came down my chimney (or, walked through the door, since we didn’t have a fireplace) and that the presents came from my parents. But we still pretended. We left out milk, cookies, and carrots. I knew my dad ate them when I was asleep, but it was still fun to pretend.

I think when we grow up we forget how real and powerful playing make-believe is for kids. My son often wants to pretend that we’re being chased by dinosaurs and have to hide in the curtains. These activities are boring for adults. We’d rather do structured play: do an art project, play a game with rules, throw a ball around. But my son beams when we play pretend together. He lights up. Because he’s still tuned into this childlike magic that I’ve long since outgrown. He doesn’t need me to influence him into believing in something that isn’t real. He already knows that the whole world is magic.

I’m not saying you can’t do Santa in your family, whole-heartedly and with gusto. If that’s a big part of your family tradition, who am I to stomp on it? I want to provide a middle option, somewhere in-between yes Santa and no Santa. Something that worked for me as a kid and a tradition I want to pass on.

Whether you do Santa or not, realize everyone’s going to do the same thing. There’s so many reasons for following whatever Santa tradition you choose. Some Christians find Santa too secular; some non-Christians find him to be too Christian. I think there’s a whole spectrum of Santa options for you to choose as a family. But please, be mindful of others. Think about how it feels when some kids get mountains of presents from Santa, and others get just one or none at all. If Santa was real, I believe he’d distribute presents equally, not based on the incomes of the child’s parents. Also, I don’t want my child to break another child’s heart with the truth about Santa. I’ll tell him to keep the secret under wraps. But since he’s not an extension of my own being, I can’t control what he does when he goes out into the world.

What are your favorite holiday traditions from when you were a kid?

Cover Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash. That’s a nice looking carrot, but I’d still go for a cookie.

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What I Did on my Autumn Vacation

Hello there! Did you think I abandoned this blog? I thought about it. Or turning it into something else altogether. My mind is constantly whiling with thoughts of what I should be doing with my various internet “properties.” But I decided to keep it. Here’s what I did while I was away from the blog, and what my plans are for my blogging future:

September

I got married! My now-husband Will and I got married outside at my parents’ house in the country. They live on a beautiful lot (that I never fully appreciated as a kid) and we had a small ceremony with my Uncle doing the service and a wonderful violinist. The best part of it all was when our son came up and took turns hugging mine and my almost-husband’s legs saying he loved us. This wasn’t planned. No one told him to do it. It was completely spontaneous and perfect.

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That’s me on the left!

October

I did Inktober.

Above is one of my Inktober drawings probably most relevant to this blog.

Will and I had a short honeymoon in Louisville, KY. We did a lot of walking and ate so much good food we spent most days going back to the hotel after lunch for a nap. Quite a lot of bourbon was consumed.

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My work sent me their home state of Georgia for some team building, which included mountain climbing and rappelling.

My son was a pterodactyl for halloween. He loved trick-or-treating but did not enjoy being told he couldn’t have any more chocolate.

I did a lot of knitting.

November

My parents’ had some of the extended family over for Thanksgiving and Will and I outdid ourselves cooking: mashed potatoes, appetizers, apple turnovers, and the turkey. The food was amazing. I’d eat turkey and cranberry sauce every day.

Around this time I found myself gradually playing World of Warcraft less and less. I tried the LOTRO Legendary server but haven’t been playing that, either.

December

I wanted to reboot the blog at the beginning of the month, but wanted to have some posts in a backlog to grab from when I don’t have something new to say. I spent the beginning of the month turning outlines into drafts.

My new goal is to post at least once a week, and I may specifically limit myself to a maximum of three posts per week so I don’t get burned out again.

The hardest part of blogging is coming up with topics. If there’s anything you’d like me to talk about within the intersection of parenting, technology, gaming, and being a nerd, please let me know!

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Another Inktober doodle just because.

Cover photo is the view from the top of my mountain climb in October!

Why I’m [Still] Blogging

Three weeks ago I started this blog. I was flush with ideas. The blog concept had been slowly cooking inside my head for months before and Blaugust got me to take it out of the oven. It was finally ready to be shared. While my posting frequency has waned since the beginning, I’m still here. I have more to say. I’m not going anywhere.

The theme Blaugust this week is Staying Motivated, so I thought I’d explore my motivations for starting and continuing this blog. The main focus of this blog is parenting  in the digital age. I think other parents and I share some common fears about how different technology is now from when we were kids. I want to address some of those. I want to talk about how having an identity as a gamer can mesh with having an identity as a parent.

I want to thank everyone who has commented on and liked my posts so far. It says to me that people are here for what I’m saying, that it has value, and that I should keep doing this. Thank you!

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via Mochimochi Land

I also have more personal reasons for blogging. I can practice my writing in small doses. I’ve been working on a new novel and writing it always feels daunting. It’s just the beginning of something huge. There are emotions to process. Many times I want to write, but I’m not in the right headspace to work on the novel. Blog posts are a perfect bite-sized chunk of writing that I can finish and put out there in an instant.

Back when I blogged anonymously about my life, blogging was an excuse for me to go out and experience things. My motto was: “Bad decisions make great blog posts.”

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It’s true, though. Mug on Etsy.

Eventually I grew up a little and the internet became less anonymous and I started writing in a paper journal instead. Even though it made my hand cramp up, I continued it until just after my son was born. I’d been writing just before going to sleep and when I had a newborn, I just wanted to crash.

I wanted an outlet again, and I thought long and hard about what kind of blog to create. I’m too messy for a lifestyle blog, so eventually I settled on “nerdy parenting blog.” I think this should motivate me to get out, more, too, but in a different way. Such as, I’ve never been to a nerdy sort of con. I’ve been to hacker cons and programming conferences, but those are different. I’d like to go to one, and maybe bring my son. Perhaps he and I should check out Free Comic Book Day. There must be other nerdy events out there for kids! This might help get me out, when I’d rather just be an introvert and stay home.

My final motivation is also for my kid. I want him to know that there’s more to me than my job and being a mom. I’m also a writer, a gamer, and a nerd. Even if he ends up being more of a jock, I want him to know this side of me. And for that to happen, I need to embrace it myself.

I write in my paper journal every now and again that my son isn’t a newborn anymore. The hand cramping keeps me from doing it more. Cover photo by Easton Oliver on Unsplash.

Reading, Playing, Writing, Doing – August 12 Edition

Unlike last week, this has been a busy week with work, kid stuff, and other responsibilities. I’m impressed that I managed to get some reading and gaming in this week. Notice that I didn’t mention writing.

Reading

I noticed Naomi Novik had a new book out. I’d loved Uprooted and Spinning Silver appeared to be in the same vein. I put Song of Achilles on hold to read it.

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Spinning Silver has a slower pace than Uprooted but I’m still enjoying it. I love Miryam. This is good, because I put a book about sled dogs on hold to read Song of Achilles and I put down Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers on hold to read that. I want to finish Starship Troopers someday but I’ll probably have to at least skim what I already read because I can’t remember what happened. The sled dog book belongs to a friend; I’m sure she’d like it back if she hasn’t forgotten it exists.

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“Hey Alli. Finish the sled dogs book!” Photo by Jérémy Stenuit on Unsplash.

Playing

The fiancé and I have been playing World of Warcraft together. We did the new Siege of Lordaeron content last night, but his computer crashed during it and he had to reboot. I’m finding warrior-ing difficult because you can’t just stand there and blast things. You have to move around and my character constantly yells at me that we don’t have a target. Bosses are fun, but the lesser mobs die too quickly when 7 other players are fighting them.

Otherwise it’s been Civ 6 all the time. I finished (lost) my game as Gilgamesh and started a new one as Tomyris. I wanted to play more aggressively.

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I’m about to kick Arabia’s butt. Until Egypt and Russia declare war on me, too.

Now all the Civs think I’m a warmonger and dislike me, except for Brazil. I managed to sweet talk Brazil into a friendship. Next I want to start a long game with a huge map and only 3 other civilizations.

Writing

Even my blogging suffered from my business last week. This week may be busy as well, with work, physical therapy, a meetup, and wedding plans. With writing blog posts, I can write a little and feel accomplished. The novel is harder.

Doing

Saturday morning two of my cousins took our engagement photos. They were more family photos since we included Indy. He did not want to cooperate. He’d only met the cousins a few times and I don’t think he remembered them. He’s been in a defiant stage and wants to say no to everything. I think we got a few good ones. When we were done, after Indy avoided my cousins the whole time, Indy decided he wanted to go home with them. He held their hands out to their cars. Okay, kid.

Much of Spinning Silver takes place in a frozen world, similar to the one in the cover photo. Photo by Jaanus Jagomägi on Unsplash.

 

What to Do When You Can’t Do Anything

Do you ever feel like you have absolutely no motivation? Do you have the kind of moments where even though you’ve managed to snag a second of free time, you just don’t know what to do with yourself? After becoming a parent, my free time has diminished to nearly nothing. You’d think that when I manage to grab a few minutes, I’d want to do All The Things. Play All The Games. Read All The Books. Get All The Things Done Around The House.

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This is what you think you’re going to do while waiting for your free time to start. Once it starts, you’ll think, “Nah, I don’t want to do that.” Source

Nope.

Okay, sometimes that’s true. But sometimes I’ll realize I can do whatever I want and nothing sounds appealing. Sometimes all I want to do is sit and play 2048 for the 2049th time even though it’s the most unproductive thing I could do. Because this happens a lot, I’ve developed some coping strategies for what to do when you just can’t do anything.

Do Nothing

Go ahead and do nothing. If this sounds too terrible to fathom, set a timer for 15 minutes and do nothing until the timer goes off. Manoush Zomorodi has a whole book about how being bored helps us come up with great ideas. Remember being bored as a kid? Didn’t it feel terrible at the time? But now it feels like a luxury. Indulge. Let yourself be bored.

Engage in some Self Care

Self care is different for everyone, so don’t take a bubble bath if you don’t like bubble baths. I usually go for a walk, take a hot shower, or cuddle with my cat. Some people enjoy gardening or exercising. Maybe your form of self-care is to scream into a pillow or re-arrange your precious moments figurines. I’m not here to judge.

Get One Tiny Thing Done

Instead of cleaning your whole entire house, find something on your to-do list that’s small and tackle that. Maybe this burst of accomplishment will push you forward into completing more tasks. Maybe it won’t, but at least now your kitchen sink is clean.

If none of those things work, there’s always mobile games and Netflix. Don’t feel guilty. We all need to zone out sometimes.

What do you do when you don’t feel like doing anything?

Cover image: This dog just can’t right now. Photo by Sashank Saye on Unsplash.

Voting with Toddlers

I was going to write about Sims features I want brought into real life, but then life happened: emergencies and lunch meetings at work, Indy’s swimming lesson, and voting in the primaries. Instead, here’s a photo of me in my car with a “just voted” sticker.

We decided to bring the toddler voting with us so he sees it as something you always do. He enjoyed the part where you put the ballot into the machine. At the end he decided he did not want to leave the building (city hall) and put up a fuss.

His sticker and my sticker have gone missing. If you have any information on their whereabouts, please contact me immediately.

Reading, Playing, Writing, Doing – August 5 Edition

Here’s a recap of what I’ve been reading, playing, and doing this week! It’s been a fairly low-key week. My fiancé took Indy to his mom’s (Indy’s grandma’s) yesterday morning, so I was able to have some alone time. As an introvert, this is essential, and as a mom, this is rare. It also means more time for reading and gaming!

Reading

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Our pick for this month for work book club is The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. It tells the story of Greek hero Achilles from the point of view of his partner, Patroclus. Miller doesn’t hesitate to capture how terrible it was for nearly everyone in ancient Greek society, particularly women. My knowledge of Achilles from from the film Troy. I know how the story ends, but I’m engrossed regardless. My coworker liked it so much he’s already read another book by the author plus The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Playing

After a bit of fun playing our low level goblins, my fiancé and I decided to pick something to boost to 110. After all my talk of going Horde, we picked Alliance. He wanted to be a Gnome. He’s a Mage and so I picked a Draenai Warrior. I thought if I could tank we could more easily get into dungeons.

Flash forward to after I confirmed the boost when I remember why I never tanked before. I get lost. The tank always seems to be the person who knows where to go next in a dungeon and I am terrible with directions. I suppose if it’s too terrible I could switch specs or finish leveling something I started way back when. A healer this time.

I spent most of today’s nap time playing Civ 6. I have a special relationship with Civ and Sims games that involves buying the latest version right away, playing it at launch, then initially hating it and wanting to jump back to the previous version. Then I’ll let it be for a while until I get the urge to play again, and at that point I’ll be hooked. Sims 4 has been more difficult and I still miss some of the features from Sims 3, but I’m totally on board with Civ 6. The Civ games are a series I can see myself playing with my kid when he’s older. My latest game has been as Gilgamesh.

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Although, reading Song of Achilles has me wanting to play as Greece. I hardly ever Finish Civ games so I’ll probably start over!

Writing

Last week I wrote a lot of blog posts! I’m sure that will continue this week. Currently bouncing around in my head is a great idea for a fantasy novel, but I’ve been really itching to write a short story. Maybe I could condense the concept into something smaller. Meanwhile my in progress novel remains untouched.

Doing

We tried a new taco place: Stan Diego. It’s a joke, because the town it’s in is called Standale. There is a big orange VW van with surfboards on it inside which I think is supposed to represent San Diego. I’ve been there several times and never saw one. Indoor vehicles aside, the chicken taco was phenomenal.

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I normally don’t take pictures inside restaurants (unless it’s I’m instagramming my food, obviously). This time I felt the need to send this to my friend who lives in San (not Stan) Diego.

This morning we rode our bikes to a nearby park which boasts a play area for smaller kids. I found this appealing because I’m always terrified Indy is going to fall off big play equipment. Of course, the first thing he wanted to do was go down the slide in the big kid area. The tall one where the hand rail is higher than his head. He also climbed up the jungle gym, with me right behind.

The bike ride part was genius. It’s easier to get a toddler to leave the playground if he’s going in a bike trailer instead of the car.

What did you read, play, write, or do last week? I need to publish this post now–before my bedtime!

Anonymity, Kids, and The Internet

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

Except–that’s not true anymore. Social media killed Internet anonymity. That can be both good (it’s a lot harder to be an asshole online and get away with it) and bad (no more anonymous soul-bearing). Since I am blogging about parenting and my family, I have to decide if I want to use real names.

I rarely post photos of my child on my Instagram. If I do, they’re usually from behind, at a weird angle, from a long distance, or heavily filtered through Prisma. Facebook is a different story. I’m constantly hearing from relatives I barely get to see in real life how much they love seeing photos of my son on Facebook. As long as he doesn’t object, I’ll continue to post those.

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Thanks, Prisma, for allowing me to share this image of my son pulling his wagon without guilt about posting his face all over the Internet.

Something feels off-putting about the mommy insta-celebrities who constantly post photos of their children to shill products. I try not to be judgmental about others’ parenting unless they’re harming themselves or others. This is not a “mommy wars” blog.

I’m using my own real name, and I’ll refer to my fiancé as my fiancé until mid-September, when he becomes my husband. But what about my kid? Calling him “my kid” feels weird. What if I have another kid? I’m not going to use his real name. I actually had a post written about why I was going to use it, and then I changed my mind. I don’t think it’s worth it.

Safety is one reason. If someone wanted to find his real name, they can. It’s 2018. But I don’t want to make it easier for them. I’m also concerned about bullying. While I’d rather kids be taught not to bully, I’d hate for a bully to find an upcoming post on potty training and use it as bullying material.

Because I don’t want to keep calling him “my kid” I’ve decided to use a made-up name for him. Henceforth he shall be called “Indy” for his independent nature. It’s not his real name. It’s not even similar to his real name. As a fake internet pseudonym coined by his mother, it suits him.

Parents, do you post photos of your kid or use their real name publicly online? Why or why not?

 

Should You Play Video Games with your Toddler?

Some of my fondest gaming memories come from playing with my little brother. He’s 8 years younger than me, and I’d often let him shoot or fight while I moved the character around on the screen. What I don’t really remember is how old we were when we played together, and I’d like to know, because I’ve been wondering:

When will I be able to play games like this with my 2 1/2 year old? Could we start now?

Currently the only game I ever play “with” him is Pokemon Go. I’m not counting pushing him around in the stroller while I visit PokeStops. He likes to watch me do maintenance tasks like transfer and heal my Pokemon. (We refer to them as Pokemans at home, but I’ll spare you all.) He likes to click on the Pokemon so they do their little action and spin them around on the screen. It’s not much, but he becomes quite whiny when it’s time to be done, so I’m not inclined to do it with him very often regardless of how much he asks to see “Poke-Hands.”

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This tiny Snorlax photo was taken by Josh Hallett on Flickr. Isn’t it cute?

Should you let your toddler watch you play video games? Would this allow you to get a bit more gaming time in and bond with your kid at the same time, or would it just be frustrating for both of you? Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if this might be worthwhile.

Can your toddler handle watching without participating?

The latest episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Massively OP, not only MENTIONS THIS BLOG (!!!) but includes one of the hosts (Justin) discussing playing games while his kids watch. My child is not ready to handle this yet. I mostly play on the PC, and he can’t deal with being around someone on a computer without wanting to use the keyboard and mouse himself. This is completely understandable. He’s a toddler, and to him a keyboard is just a slab covered with buttons. How could he possibly resist?

You might get away with giving your toddler a spare keyboard or controller so they think they’re playing, even if their button smashing doesn’t actually do anything. You’d have to be sure they wouldn’t realize what was going on, or just want to use your controller for no other reason than it’s the one you’re using.

Is the content appropriate for your toddler?

I leave it up to individual parents to decide what content is appropriate for their children. If you really want to play something super violent and you don’t want your kid exposed to that kind of content, you might want to wait to play that particular game after they go to bed. Check your Steam list and determine if there’s anything you want to play that you feel comfortable playing in front of your kid.

Are you concerned about screen time?

Disclaimer: I’m not a pediatrician, psychologist, child development specialist, or parenting “expert” so if you’re concerned about screen time, I highly encourage you to do your own research. That said, I think if you’re actively engaged interacting with your child while you’re playing, it seems like more quality time than sticking them alone to zone out in front of a TV show.

In my personal experience, my toddler becomes a mini tyrant once the TV or phone is turned off. This discourages us from wanting to give him any to avoid the affront to our ears when it’s time to stop.

Do you just not want to?

In the podcast episode, Justin talks about how his kids issue instructions at him when he plays The Sims. Maybe you don’t want this. Maybe you want to make your own decisions and not have a high pitched voice telling you what to do for once. Maybe you just want to play your game by yourself.

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The Verdict

I’m passing on playing video games with my son for now. I think it will be something fun we can do together when he’s a little older, when he’s not ripping the keyboard out of my hands and throwing a tantrum when it’s time to put it away.

For those of you with toddlers, do they ever watch you play video games? How does it go? For those with older kids, how old were they when you started gaming together?