Mama Madison: Hit the road, Santa

There comes a time when it's too weird to keep believing

I know Alec Baldwin has had some parenting problems with his own daughter, but I never expected him to cause much of an issue for me. But that changed last weekend when, in search of some holiday-themed escapism, I took a carload of kids to check out his latest role as the voice of "North", aka Santa Claus, in DreamWorks new release, Rise of the Guardians.

For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of this computer-animated fantasy, it's the story of a partnership forged to save the world, much like the Justice League or the Avengers. But instead of traditional superheroes fighting crime, the film features familiar childhood characters like E. Aster Bunnymund (an Easter Bunny from Down Under), the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, Jack Frost, and their intrepid Red Suited (and, in the film, tattooed) leader, North, joining forces to prevent Pitch (the Boogeyman) from engulfing the world in darkness.

I will not get in to any more plot specifics here. Nor will I attempt to review the film in any way. I will though offer one piece of critical advice. Don't take a kid teetering on the edge of the "I believe in Santa" cliff. Because seeing this film has pushed my daughter right over.

At our house, the shine came off the Easter Bunny long ago when my middle son, probably eight or nine at the time, found a receipt for faux grass and Cadbury eggs treats at the bottom of a Walgreens bag on Easter morning. Exhausted from egg hiding, I didn't have the heart or energy to lie to him. I quickly spilled the (jelly) beans. No, son, the pastel M&Ms and Skittles you look forward to every year are not stuffed into those cheap plastic eggs by a floppy eared rabbit. Instead, it's always been just your dad and me sweating out the proper ratio of foil wrapped bunnies to marshmallow Peeps that you find carefully arranged in your basket.

It's actually kind of shocking the Tooth Fairy ruse lasted as long as it did at our place. Because regardless of whether the bagged bicuspid was placed under a pillow, on top of a pillow or even taped to the freaking door with a powerfully worded note to the Matriarch of Molars, my husband I were pathologically unable to promptly remove the goods and leave the requisite payment.

For some generous reason though, our kids cut us a lot of slack on this one. They willingly believed (or pretended to believe that) the Tooth Fairy assigned to our house was regularly held up at the home of some kid who had lost both front teeth in a freak hockey accident. Or that she had fallen victim to the fairy flu that had plagued Tinkerbell and Cinderella's godmother earlier in the week.

But we eventually ran out of excuses. And they ran out of the desire to excuse us. And we all agreed that nothing needed to be placed under pillows anymore. Just yank out the incisor and call mom or dad. The financial exchange, at our house at least, could take place in broad daylight.

Jack Frost, to my kids, is just a song lyric that follows chestnuts roasting on an open fire. And I'm not sure Sandman or the Boogeyman has ever been mentioned in our home.

But Santa was something different. Because while my youngest, a logical type, had wrestled with the plausibility of an overweight bearded man fitting down our chimney, with a sack full of toys no less, she'd held on to her belief. She even told me not long ago that Santa must be real because, given the mess we'd made of the whole Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy thing, it was absolutely impossible that her Dad and I could pull Christmas off without him. It was a very sweet--though simultaneously insulting -- thing to say.

But the Santa myth went up in a cloud of fairy dust while watching "Rise of the Guardians". To her, the movie was the equivalent of remaking Spinal Tap with Mick Jagger playing the lead singer instead of the guy from Laverne and Shirley. It was just too weird a mixing of fact and fiction. If, she reasoned, Santa is actually in cahoots with the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and this Sandman guy she'd never heard of, he, alas, must be a legend, as well.

But don't worry. I am not too sad. And neither is she. The holidays and presents, she realizes, will go on without elves, flying reindeer or a ho-ho-ho.

And it's nice to have her believe -- in this stage of her life at least -- that the only "Guardians" she really needs are her hard working, but ever flawed, parents.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Tips and tricks for baby air travel

As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.

Mama Madison: Apple-picking time

The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.

Mama Madison: Baby feeding recommendations

I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?

Heartland Farm Sanctuary helps animals that help kids

Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.

Mama Madison: Back-to-school confidences

Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.

Mama Madison: Does back-to-school really mean a whole new wardrobe?

This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"

Mama Madison: Next generation of bloggers

Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.

Mama Madison: Returning to the workforce

This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.

Triathlons raise money to teach kids healthy habits

"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.

Mama Madison: Kids will find their own passions in their own ways

"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."

Vital work is being done at the Lussier Community Education Center, from community-building to STEM skills

"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."

Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."

Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.

Mama Madison: Young love

Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.

Mama Madison: What a mother fears most

All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.

Operation Fresh Start's Youth Conservation Corps helps kids, and kids help parks

Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.

Mama Madison: Summer stress solved by yoga

The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.

Mama Madison: The greatest fans of road repair

Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.

Mama Madison: The alarm sounds

As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.

Mama Madison: My summer book list

For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.