This column first appeared in the December 22, 2019 PRINT edition of The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers:
Hope all is well up north and that plans for the annual all-nighter are nearly complete.
I’m writing to apologize for the lack of Christmas wish lists you’re seeing from my kids over the last few years.
Yes, they still believe in you. All four of them were super excited when I brought home a life-size inflatable yard decoration of you, and they still sing Christmas carols that reference your jolliness.
Our 7-year-old doesn’t always make good choices, so wisely, he fears you (in a healthy way).
All this aside, they’ve opted to stop writing to you. The reason: online shopping.
At first I blamed Jeff Bezos, but I’ve come to realize I’m part of the problem.
Our kids are in high demand at the holidays. It’s not just you who’s excited to spoil them. Even before we hit Thanksgiving dinner, family have started asking them what they want for Christmas.
I’m OK with that, but online shopping has allowed them to cut out the middleman. Instead of sitting at the table and carefully recording the names of toys from paper catalogs, they tell the aunts and uncles, “Dad’ll send you a link to my Amazon list.”
Of course my reaction to our youngest kids (they’re our most fervent Santa believers) was, “Well, how do you know Santa will see it?”
This generated two unexpected responses.
The first came from my 7-year-old.
“You said he sees and knows everything,” he replied. “So, he already knows what’s on my Amazon list.”
The second came from my 9-year-old.
“Even if he doesn’t know, you can share it with him, right?” Sadie asked. “You shared it with everyone else. Don’t you have his email address?”
(Note to self: find Santa’s email address)
None of this would matter if we just wrote normal letters like we did when I was a kid. You know, good ol’ fashioned paper and pencil with the occasional crayon?
Instead, everything is high-tech these days.
Jeff (sorry, Mr. Bezos) has certainly made it easier for all of the gift-givers. But I fear he’s made wish list writing a little too easy and impersonal.
Remember that letter I wrote to you when I was 8? I know you do. It was a brilliant piece of prose and clearly foreshadowed my career as a newspaper columnist.
My heart and soul went into that letter. It was a good year for me, as evidenced by the bounty that awaited me under the tree. But in that letter, I also fully admitted to having some naughty moments.
That part is missing from the Amazon option. We miss the opportunity to self-reflect. We only get to select some items that Amazon carries — bonus for givers if you pick an Amazon Prime item.
For many, self-reflection is an important component to our end-of-year holiday celebrations. We look back to count our blessings, to thank others for their support and to show love and generosity in return.
I might be a little late in telling you this. You’ve probably already picked out presents for my kids.
Just know that next year we’ll try a little harder.
Rather than just list all the stuff we want in the letters (or email) we write to you, we’ll take time for a little introspection.
P.S. Yes, I know you call me "Little" Adam, and I'm okay with that. Just remember that I'm now 6-foot-8, 320-pounds if you're plan to wrap a Pittsburgh Steelers hoodie for me.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.