Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: The gift of childhood

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 31 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

Two of my greatest gifts Boston and Beckham.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert

“Isn’t Christmas magical with kids?”

It was a text I read from my good friend a few days before Christmas.

Yes it is, and a little overwhelming, too. I tried so hard to “create” a magical Christmas for my children this year, such as decorating a big, beautiful tree (that died a week before Christmas), hanging homemade gingerbread men banners in my boys’ room (a sorry sight I must say, as most of the “men” looked rather misshapen), and spending the better part of an hour getting them all dressed to have fun in the snow only to hear knocking on the back door three minutes later with shouts of “I’m ready to come in now, Mommy!”

One day early in December, I made a Costco run. While wandering through one of the Christmas aisles, I spotted an “Elf on the Shelf.”

“Perfect!” I thought. I had seen numerous posts of my friend’s elves doing all sorts of mischievous things while the kids slept — such as giving mini-concerts to fellow stuffed animals on tiny, toy pianos. So I grabbed an elf and quickly explained the details to my kids.

“We get to name him, and then he comes alive at night and watches you during the day!”

My 5-year-olds’ eyes grew wide.

“He reports to Santa if you’ve been naughty or nice,” I said.

He looked at me suspiciously.

That night, I went to find “Thomas” the elf to make his shelf debut. But he was nowhere to be seen. Finally, I crept upstairs to the older boys’ bedroom, and there, pinned underneath my 5-year-old, was Thomas. I didn’t think it was worth it to wake him, so I quietly left, thinking I’d start the magic the next night.

Morning soon came. As I was downstairs making breakfast, I heard my oldest son tromping down the stairs.

“Good morning!” I said cheerfully. “Did you sleep well?”

“Mom,” my son announced, “Thomas is not real!”

“What?” I said.

“I was with him last night,” he said. “And guess what? He didn’t come alive!”

Racking my brains, I quickly countered with, “Oh, but he doesn’t ever come alive if you’re watching! It’s just like ‘Toy Story.’ He only comes alive if there are no people in the room!”

Feeling triumphant, I turned back around.

“Mom!” my son exclaimed. “Look at this thing! Feel it. It’s stuffed. You think he can come alive? You think he can talk? No. He can’t.”

I stood there completely dumbfounded. What in the world do I say? Do I force this whole “Elf on the Shelf” thing? Do I try and make him believe? Would giving in mean he’d miss out on a magical Christmas of elfish mischief like powdered-sugar snowball fights with action figures?

Worried that if he was too logical for Thomas the elf, he might also be too logical for Santa, I hesitantly asked the dreaded question:

“Boston — do you believe in Santa Claus?”

“Yes,” he responded immediately.

I let out a sigh of relief.

“And I believe in God the Eternal Father,” he said and walked away.

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