It was a negotiation based on shameless blackmail.
Last week, at the request of my oldest daughter, I called my granddaughter, Océanne, impersonating Santa Claus.
I really get into the role. Following a few hardy Ho-ho-ho’s and some heartfelt season’s greetings, I describe to my innocent four-your-old the observations of my spying elves – made all the more credible by inside information provided by my informant (namely, her mother).
Océanne outlines her gift requests in some detail and sweetly promises to better listen to her parents and to definitely stop talking back – at least until Christmas. I close the deal, telling her this sounds fair. She gets what she wants so long as her mom gets the expected behaviour.
This is not my first case of masquerading as Father Christmas.
Thanks to my general extroversion (as apposed to my girth), I have been asked many times to suit up and play the role of the white-bearded fellow.
It was at a company children’s Christmas party a number of years ago when my kids were young that something magical happened.
Three of my four children were still at that innocent “I believe” stage. My eldest daughter, (she of the blackmailing phone call) however, was on the cusp of Santa-scepticism. My anxiety was fuelled by the likelihood of her screaming out to the happy little children that there was an impostor dressed in red. It would not be the first nor last time this girl made an animated public display of her emotions.
To mitigate such risks, I suddenly stopped prior to entering the hall and warned the kids against any outbursts in the event they recognized Saint Nick. The mischievous look my eldest gave me with her big round eyes did nothing to reassure me.
As always happened at such affairs, 10 minutes before the ringing of the bells announcing Santa’s arrival, I had excused myself from the table (supposedly to make a phone call).
With the highly anticipated entrance, when viewed firsthand from the jolly fellow’s perspective, children’s expressions are rapturous. For most, a delightful mix of awe and joy. For some, utter terror.
As the children were marshalled through the winding line for the three-step sit-on-the-knee, mumble-a-request and look-at-the-camera process, I kept a suspicious eye upon my clan.
They wound their way to the front and my older girl made her request without outburst or incident. Same for the boys.
It was the look in the eyes of my younger daughter that made a lasting impact. Like her sister, she has big, beautiful eyes. As she sat upon my lap, they grew to tea saucer size.
As our gazes met, I feared that I had shattered her belief in Old Saint Nick.
But, indeed something different and quite magical occurred at that moment. She was overcome by her sense of wonder and came away convinced that her father and Santa Claus were one.
You can imagine my newfound influence over the poor thing. Like all nice superheroes, I made a pledge to only use my powers for good. I must admit, that for a season, she did pretty well everything I asked – even anticipating my needs, fetching drinks, slippers and reading material.
Santa made sure to bring her a special gift that year.
Ted Markle, a media industry veteran of more than 30 years, is a keen observer of the humorous side of the human situation. He appears in this space every Monday. You can reach him at email@example.com. – Twitter : @tedmarkle