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All I Want for Christmas

Dear Santa,

Yes, that’s right. It’s me. After all these years.

You were probably expecting letters from my children, weren’t you? Well, keep your eye out; they’ll be along shortly. The kids have been busy making their lists, and this year, the lists are longer than ever. Yes, we’re trying our best to teach them that it’s better to give than to receive. But the stores are full of toys, the Christmas catalogs just keep coming, and the kids have figured out the basic holiday arithmetic. Sure, to give is nice. But receiving is a whole lot more fun.

And that’s why I’m writing you now.My wife, my relatives, and even the children have told me I have to. Because so far this Christmas season, I haven’t asked for a thing. And everyone keeps pestering me to make a list of my own.

I hear it over and over, day after day. What do you want? What do you need? What can Santa bring you this year? There must be something you’d like.

Oh, I know you remember the letters you used to get from me, Santa, all of them filled with boyhood dreams you helped make come true.One year, I asked for the remote-control race car. Then came the time I wanted an army man, and Christmas morning, there he was at the base of the tree: G.I. Joe himself. And I’ll never forget the year you brought me the electric guitar.

But this year, I just can’t think of anything to put on that list. I’m a busy dad now, and I guess I’ve lost track of all the stuff I might like for myself.

And the truth is, I don’t really need anything anyway.

Well, all right. My wife says I need clothes. Hey, I’m good with what I’ve got, I tell her. I don’t need new ties because I hardly ever wear the ones already hanging in the closet. I take pride in being able to fit into the pants that predate my wedding day seventeen years ago. And I happen to think that wearing a Polo shirt under my buttoned-down Oxford, as I’ve done since 1983, looks quite stylish.

“No, you need everything,” she insists. So I must leaf through clothing catalogs filled with lambs wool scarves and sheepskin slippers and cashmere sweaters. It’s all an exotic world of microfiber, pinpoint cotton, and designer luggage with matching travel accessories.All the dapper guys in the photos are polished and pleated and pressed. But a dad like me? I’m lucky if I can find my belt in the morning. House pets would make short work of any new footwear you might bring. And the next trip I take will probably be a minivan trip to Disney World.

Don’t think you can dazzle me with anything billed as a Great Gift for Dad, either. In the real dad world, there’s little use for multi-language talking translators or electric deep-tissue massagers or intelligent picture frames that display all my digital photos as a slide show.

Now I do like the idea of the electronic rechargeable heated fleece vest. But how would I keep my vest fully functional when I can’t even remember to charge the cell phone?

Don’t bother with gift cards or vouchers or certificates of any kind.I’ll just throw them in a drawer and forget all about them. Same goes for subscriptions to magazines. I’ll never get around to reading the issues that come in the mail. They’ll pile up on the coffee table and then go out with the recycling.I suppose you could bring me a new pair of cold-weather gloves, but trust me: I’ll lose them in a matter of days.

If you must bring something, Santa, I suppose there are a few small things I could use. Now that winter is here, we should load up on the ice melt. And we always need more AA batteries. I’m pretty well set on power tools and weedwhackers and leaf-blowers, but if you can locate the back-issue of Consumer Reports that rates mulching lawnmowers, feel free to stuff it in my stocking.

I could use some decent scissors – a pair to call my own that isn’t made of day-glo plastic or covered in glue or currently being used to cut homemade cookies or pizza or elementary-school crafts. I’d like a roll of quarters. And one of dimes, too. In this debit-card age, I never have coins for the toll plaza or the machine that pumps air into my tires at the gas station. Come to think of it, you could also bring more ibuprofen – jumbo size, if you please. And a decongestant that works.

But what do I really want for Christmas? Hey, I only want what all dads want. I want time. And I don’t mean the kind of time you keep with the all-occasion analog atomic watch, either.

I’m talking about more time to kick the soccer ball in the back yard.Enough time to fit together 100-piece puzzles at the dining room table. Time to read Charlotte’s Web aloud to the children again.

More time to sleep – especially when the children sneak into my bed to get warm on a cold winter morning. More time each year to swim in the waves and jump in the leaves and dig in the snow we’re hoping will pile up a foot outside.More time to lie on the floor and build the Legos and play the new Wii game I know you’ll leave under the tree. More time just to be the family we are.

Yes, Santa, it’s a short list, I know. But after all these years, if you only bring that for Christmas, you will have given me everything I could ever ask for.

Tony Farrell has written about parenting for many books, magazines, and websites. The father of two, Tony has written the DadZone since 2009.
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