One day, she'll thank me. Probably the day she tells her own kids the same lie.
Item #598 for which I am thankful: The Maybe List.
Thursday was spent with new friends at their home. We ate and then gabbed upstairs while we let the kids run loose in the basement playroom until it was time to leave. Eventually realized we had overestimated our children’s ability to reason without supervision, which I realize is Incredibly Obvious, but there was wine in our glasses, people.
The marker on the walls and the small piles of curls were found on the basement floor right about the time we were saying our good-byes and bundling up in the winter coats. Thankfully, my child has the kind of hair most adult women can only dream of — and so much of it — that that it actually took me a good 30 minutes of searching to find the section she lopped off when nobody was looking. She says she was trying to help me save time by trimming her split ends herself, so I took the hint and gave her that trim I’ve been meaning to do and haven’t had time for because life always seems to be on fast-forward these days.
Before she went to bed, I made a big deal about a text message notification I’d just received and hammed it up with wide eyes and “Oh my…” and waited for her to ask me what the message was.
“It’s Santa,” I told her, straight-faced and owning that time-share in Hell I’m probably earning. “He wanted me to tell you something.”
“What?? WHAT???” Eyes wild and hands clasped to her chest, Eliana stared up at me. “WHAT IS IT? WHAT DID SANTA SAY, MAMA?”
“He said he’s not amused.” I sighed dramatically. “I wonder what he means by that?”
My child looked worried. I tried not to look smug.
“He knows,” she said.
“I’m betting. That’s probably why he just moved you to The Maybe List.”
“What’s The Maybe List, Mama?” Her voice was squeaky. That happens when she tries playing poker with Mama and Mama calls her bluff.
“You’ve never heard of The Maybe List?” I feigned surprise. “Oh well, that’s as it should be, of course. It’s not exactly… public information.”
Eliana was now more curious that she was worried. A secret Santa text message with potential spy-worthy information? Could it get any better? Still, I waited for her to make the next move.
“I promise to keep it a secret, Mama. You can tell Santa I said that.”
So I did. Or not. I was actually sending a tweet and told her it was a text and then I “Oh My’d” again when enough time had passed for a response to seem realistic. “Just told him,” I said. “Santa says I can tell you. But remember — this is top secret stuff.”
And she promised again and I gave an official looking nod. “Okay then. Everybody’s heard of the Naughty and Nice list, yes? Little girls and boys who are kind and caring and thoughtful and listen to their mamas and daddies are rewarded for their good behavior choices with gifts from Santa. Those who are rude and mean and selfish are left with nothing but a piece of coal in their stockings, and that sounds like a pretty horrible Christmas morning, doesn’t it?”
Eliana nodded solemnly. “Cutting my own hair was pretty naughty, wasn’t it?
“Well, you were trying to help me, which is thoughtful. But you tried cutting your own hair with adult scissors and it wasn’t naughty, exactly, but it wasn’t the smartest thing to do. You’re lucky you didn’t have to get more cut off to even it out, little girl.”
She blinked. I blinked back.
“So…I’m on The Maybe List, then? What’s that mean?”
“Well, it works like this,” I said, thinking it all up as I went along, “kids on the nice list get gifts from Santa. Kids on the naughty list get coal. But the kids on The Maybe list don’t find out until Christmas morning if they get anything at all…”
“Okay, so here’s how it works, I said, “Nice means if you ask Santa for a drum set that’s gonna drive mama crazy, you might get it anyway because Santa has been paying attention to all your good choices throughout the year. Naughty means mamas and daddies could tell Santa how their rude little child should get another chance and get his or her gifts anyway because it’s Christmas but Santa won’t budge.
“Well, the Maybe List,” I continued, “works like this: Santa likes you. He thinks you’re a smart kid. And he wants to bring you a few special things you’ve asked him for. He’s not putting you on the Naughty List for the hair cut, but he isn’t quite sure about the Nice List, either. That means he’s leaving it up to me. I’m gonna be up when he walks through that front door and when he does, carrying all of your gifts, he’s going to ask me if he gets to leave them. If I say yes, well, hello Christmas! But if I say no, Santa has to turn right around and take that bag of presents right out to the sleigh again to pass out to other boys and girls.”
“Wait a minute,” she said, “You are in charge of Santa?”
“Only if you’re on the Maybe List. That means for the entire month of December, I’m the one who’s gonna be making my list and checking it twice. And if you try really hard and make good behavior choices, I’ll high five Santa on his way to the tree.”
“Like not cutting my hair and not not sharing my iPad with my friends?”
I nodded solemnly. “Exactly.”
I gave her a minute to process. Obviously, this was a lot to take in.
“Okay…” she began, “but does this mean the milk and cookies aren’t for Santa anymore?”
I hid a smile in the hair she had cut as I kissed her forehead and tucked her in to bed. “We can talk about that one another night.”