Holiday disappointment? Don't blame the guy in the red suit
Perhaps this will be the year that parents are forced to say no to kids at the holidays. The economy is down and people may have no choice but to cut back. In that case you need a plan.
You can't really blame Santa Claus. Making him the scapegoat will just raise more uncomfortable questions. Kids aren't dumb. They are quick to protest unfairness. In a kid's world, there is no greater injustice than disparities in Nintendo Wii ownership. Naturally, they're going to want to know why Santa Claus hates them.
What you need is a mythical figure to play off against Claus. I'd make it a creature that lives at the South Pole-the opposing geography will help reinforce the idea of an adversarial force in the world. Now, what to call him? I'd say Greenspan. Kids are likely to have heard the name and may even recognize some vague connection to the world of money. So take advantage of their impressions. Playing further on the name, I'd give him a sort of Grinch-ish cast to his complexion. It would make him more memorable.
You don't want to portray Greenspan as evil because that might unnecessarily frighten a child, not to mention slander the former Fed chairman. Just tell them that Greenspan is the man who controls the world supply of stuff like doll's eyes, miniature train wheels, video-game memory cards and the red stitches that are used on baseballs. Every year, Santa Claus places a raw-materials order with Greenspan in, like, April. Some years, Greenspan fills the orders, some years not. He always offers reasons, but Greenspan speaks Economic with a touch of Bureaucratic; languages that few understand.
Now, you never want to kill hope in a child, so it's important to stress that Greenspan, for all his unreliability and inscrutable pronouncements, does attempt to correct disparities in toy distribution. So while this Christmas may yield less, a future Christmas could yield more. You never know for sure with Greenspan. I'd also give Greenspan a memorable form of transportation, on the order of Santa's reindeer. It helps round out the myth. How would Greenspan travel? I'd say in a flying office chair behind a flying desk. He'd always be leaving a little trail of paper clips and Post-it notes behind him as he flew around attempting to reconcile accounts. This connects Greenspan to the world of work, which I think is important because kids know that money and work are related somehow.
"Greenspan is working on it," you can tell the kids when they ask why the presents were a bit sparse this year. What you're really taking advantage of here is youthful resilience. Kids will bounce back from Christmas deprivations if they think there's hope for better holidays ahead. And think how much better prepared they will be for life, which is never predictable in the way it showers us with gifts one day and disappointments the next.
Joe Blundo's column, So to Speak, appears in the Life section of The Columbus Dispatch. It's a mix of humor, human interest and information. A collection of his columns has been published in the book Dancing Dads, Defective Peeps and Buckeye Misadventures. He lives in Worthington with his wife and two children.