Mark believes many things. Broccoli and vegetables make you taller, if you finish your plate you’ll invariably get a piece of chocolate, monsters may take over the bedroom if mommy or daddy close the door shut, the number of gifts you get at your birthday is equal to your birthday age, if you go to the kitchen and shut the light off you are invisible to the world and can help yourself to daddy’s candy stash, etc.
Oh, and my personal favourite: mommy understands what dogs say when they bark. This started a day when Mark was whining and just as I was getting annoyed with his behaviour, a dog barked. “See, even the dog says you should stop right now!” I shouted. For months after that, Mark asked me to translate every single bark he heard.
So yes, like most four-year-old kids, Mark can’t always tell the difference between a dream, a wish, a fantasy and plain, old and boring reality.
But I’m not sure Mark believes in Santa.
Just a few days before Christmas, I caught him counting loose change on the table. “What are you doing with money?” I asked.
“I need it,” he replied. “I will give it so Santa for the presents he will bring me.”
“Oh, Mark…” I sighed, slightly heartbroken to see a little kid thinking about money. “Santa doesn’t need money. He brings you gifts because you’ve been nice. That’s his job. Once a year, he is generous and bring gifts without expecting anything in return.”
For days, Mark asked us what we wanted for Christmas. Note that he usually only gave us a couple of options—I had the choice between LEGO and a purple car the last time he quizzed me.
“I’m going to give you a gift,” Mark would promise me every time I did something extravagant, like giving him almost-empty bottles of shampoo in the bath (“bubbles! So many BUBBLES!”) or adding ketchup to his pasta. On the other hand, whenever I would act like mommy (“go to BED!”), I would hear “I’m not getting you any gift, then!”
The month of December basically revolved around gifts—imaginary, real, promised and confiscated. But despite the letter we wrote to Santa and the Advent calendar, Mark asked what I would get him for Christmas or what Feng would get me. I corrected him, inviting Santa again in the conversation … but yes, I’m not sure if Mark believes in Santa.
Santa certainly wasn’t invited in the classroom and the word “Christmas” was never mentioned at school. I get it, not everyone celebrates Christmas. However, I find it funny that Mark’s very multicultural daycare did have a Christmas tree and a secret Santa event while the school, definitely more WASP, doesn’t even utter the word “Christmas” in public. Instead, the kids had a “Holiday Party” (very inconveniently scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.) and they sang songs about “flocons” (all the kids pronounced it as “faux con,” which I found hilarious) and bells. Note: I do not recommend attending a junior kindergarten holiday party with a 40°C fever and no caffeine in bloodstream.
During the first half of the month, we began the fairly smooth and predictable descent into winter weather, early sunsets and Christmas shopping. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant until it got cold—very cold. And of course, Mark got sick. It took several visits to several doctors and a week of misery and cleaning of bodily fluids to get a prescription for antibiotics. The following chapter was already written by then: Feng and I got sick as well. Not the typical “meh, I kind of have a cold” virus but the exhausting and never-ending virus that makes you wish you could just sleep for a week or two. I actually did stay in bed for a couple of days but we didn’t get better. For an entire week, I had a fever and my temperature was between 39°C and 41ºC. I was barely functioning and Feng wasn’t doing much better.
Eventually, on December 23, we went to the walk-in clinic. Feng was told to take over-the-counter medicine but he got some penicillin after begging the doctor for it. Then we went to another walk-in clinic for me. After waiting for a few hours, I was prescribed antibiotics as well. I also had the displeasure to meet one of the most unprofessional doctors ever. After asking me if I was married and if I worked, he blamed me for having “only” one kid and ended by telling me I would die alone when I admitted I smoked. Considering I was coming for a virus and I had no previous patient history with him, it was completely inappropriate and rude. While I fully expect health professionals (and the entire world) warn against smoking, absolutely no one ever quit after being threatened by a random dude. The five-minute interaction left me speechless. Good thing I was sick, I guess, I barely reacted.
That evening, we postponed the traditional Christmas dinner with my in-laws to December 25. On the evening of Christmas Eve, we realized that every restaurant was closed (even in Chinatown!) so Mark had a slice at Pizza Pizza and Feng and I had jiǎo zi at home.
But ultimately, December 25, Christmas Day, delivered the magic we needed. Presents were found, opened, tried and played with. Bat-Bear helped Mark on a LEGO mission while I was playing with my brand new camera (yay!). It was very cold but sunny and for the first time in a week, I didn’t have a fever. In the evening, we had dinner with my in-laws and I walked around in their neighbourhood, where the same people who go crazy with Halloween decorations put up an impressive display of outdoor decorations for Christmas.
And this is where we are at now.
If you celebrated Christmas, I hope you had a great time. If you don’t celebrate this holiday, I hope you had fun and found something cool to do!