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The Little Elf That Couldn’t

I don’t drop my kid off at a play date without full allergy training and knowledge of where and who I’m leaving him with. But for Santa I’m expected to hand him over to a swarm of strangers, who know nothing about him or his allergies.

He’s to get into wardrobe and makeup (ingredients unknown) and then wait around, without even a friend or any form of time-passing activities, for the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon before he moves through the two-hour parade. My regret sets in quickly, but like it or not we committed, so on the horn I get to the higher ups.

Within a week, I move through the chain of command, finally ensuring that my elf-to-be retains his coveted position while being accompanied for the entire day by at least one of his parents.

Honey was all for canning the plan, but not me. I haven’t spent seven years protecting my allergic son from a restricted life to be intimidated by Rudolph’s rules and regs.

Without knowing any of this, Lucas had already begun to hem and haw about the parade. He really didn’t want to do it anymore, but I wasn’t giving his feelings much consideration ­– of course he’d rather be playing basketball in the second game of the season, but we make choices …. And after I raised a ruckus with the otherwise unyielding parade-security regime, there was no way we were backing out.

In my own quest to make this work safely and seamlessly, I lost site of the fact that my child was no longer the kid who brings his grandpa in for show-and-tell  – my 5-year-old has taken over that honour. Lucas doesn’t do campy or dress-up, and he’s not the same kid who made this choice a year ago.

But the TSN turning point came when ­after four hours of waiting around, in costume – two inside the building, two outside in a sub-zero wind tunnel, where Lucas was strapped in on Float No. 29. He was doing his best to hold back the tears that came and went and froze mid-stream while he begged to get off – the float began to move.

The marshal had assured me that the kids – who were frozen and deflated ­– perk right up once they get moving. And they did. All but one – the little elf that couldn’t.

As the float took off, Lucas’ intermittent tears and pleading exploded into a full-blown hysterical meltdown, circa 2004. Then it finally hit me, “what the f*k am I doing to my kid?” There was no light at the end of his tunnel. He doesn’t care about Christmas or irony or bragging rights. He’s freezing, desperate and humiliated. “Okay, enough, enough, get him off,” I yell to the marshal. “Get him off, nowww!”

My son is hysterical. I’m hysterical. The crowd is cheering wildly. They’re taking pictures. But nobody’s taking him off.

“Help me, muuuuuuuuuuum,” he’s crying out to me, as I’m speed weaving through the throng of parade fans trying to get to him. The marshal’s saying she can’t take him off until we get to the next intersection. But my baby needs me. I screwed up. I have to get him off.

Parents in the crowd are acting anything but Christian toward me, grumbling at me and throwing elbows as I step in front of their children to keep pace with my son. Then I finally break through like a crazed fan at a Bruce Springsteen concert. And off he comes. Thank god. Whomever’s god, just thank god it’s over.

Fade to black.

A few weeks have passed, Lucas has moved on and my guilt has mostly subsided, but I’m still left trying to figure out the moral of this holiday story gone awry.

Maybe it’s about taking your kid’s cues and giving the allergy protection act a little bit of breathing room. Maybe it’s about figuring out where to commit and when to quit or redrawing the line between your comfort zone and his.

Or maybe the lesson is to stop focusing on the lesson or how we come off or what’s right and wrong or how safe is safe, and just enjoy life as it unfolds, at least for one day.

As they say at the yeshiva, “we plan and god laughs.” And on that note – Happy Holidays, readers!!

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