Clippings: Youthful innocence is too stressful

The Christmas season is here and as an adult I am supposed to be completely stressed out. Shopping, family gatherings, overeating and Yankee swaps are supposed to push me to the edge. I am supposed to feel bad that I am not a kid anymore and get depressed that my quest to recapture the innocence of my childhood will never be fulfilled. I say “Bah Humbug” to all that. The Christmas season actually makes me feel really good and, frankly, I think kids are the one who experience the most stress during the holidays.
First, let’s talk about sleep. During the Christmas season I sleep like a baby, if babies actually slept, which they don’t, so I don’t know why people use that expression. I sleep more like a middle-aged man who is exhausted by shopping, family gatherings, overeating and Yankee swaps. I can hardly keep my eyes open past nine o’clock. As a kid, however, I don’t think I would sleep more than five hours total in the week before Christmas. I was so jacked up by thoughts of Christmas morning that I would spend every night tossing and turning. On Christmas Eve I would draw my curtains and get into bed around 2:30 in the afternoon in the hopes that Christmas would arrive sooner. Of course, I couldn’t sleep and every time I looked at the clock it seemed like it was five minutes earlier than the last time I looked. I think by about 3:30 in the morning I was locked in a silent full-body scream.
Mostly at night I would obsess about presents. I will admit that trying to find gifts for loved ones can still be stressful, but I certainly don’t worry anymore about what I might be getting. As a kid I was driven crazy by the sight of gifts as they accumulated under the tree. After a night of sleep deprivation I would sit, glassy eyed, by the tree, staring at and handling every gift. Sometimes I would get the shakes and start foaming at the mouth. That’s stress.
Christmas morning disappointment was also a big problem as a kid. One year my brother and I both asked Santa for a Tonka front-end loader. My brother got the front-end loader and I got a dump truck. And not the big heavy-duty dump truck with the massive tires (I may still be bitter). Boy, was I upset. I felt wronged and unloved, even though there were more than enough presents for me still under the tree to satisfy any kid. I think I was pretty rotten that morning. I blame it on a lack of sleep.
And don’t get me started about Santa Claus. Many kids have a lot of trouble sitting on Santa’s lap. And why shouldn’t they? His arrival on Christmas may be highly anticipated, but that doesn’t mean kids want to be grabbed by his gloved hands and forced to sit on his lap while trying to see past all that facial hair. No offense, Santa, I love you, but you can be a little scary. And as a kid the question of Santa’s existence can become agonizing. In fact, if any young children are reading this you may want to seek counseling before reading on.
There are a lot of confusing messages out there about Santa. Other kids, older siblings and messages in books and on television can really mess with a kid’s head. A couple of years ago I was reading a book to my youngest daughter and when I got to a passage where the main characters started talking about Santa I panicked and had to rewrite the book on the fly. When my son finally learned the truth about Santa the strongest emotion he felt was relief. He was relieved because he had been worrying that he would become an adult not knowing if Santa was real and he wouldn’t know if Santa would bring gifts for his own kids. That is long-range stress.
So as Christmas approaches go ahead and wish for some youthful innocence, but be thankful you are an adult. I may still be hoping for a front-end loader, but I am not going to lose any sleep over it.
Trent Campbell is at [email protected]

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