Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.

We started playing Christmas in July back in, well, July. I was trying to come up with something creative for my older daughter to play while we were stuck inside so much, avoiding temperatures too extreme for her newborn baby sister. At this point, playing Christmas in mid-November is just playing Christmas, but my daughter still exhibits such pure joy every time she sees her “Christmas friends” in a local store that I don’t think the months have diminished the magic. Her particular favorite is Rudolph, that most famous reindeer of all, whose story (based on the 1964 Rankin and Bass film) she revises and incorporates into our daily life. She tells me she loves Rudolph for his bright red nose and his excellent eyesight, but I think his ability to fly has a lot to do with it. She reenacts scenes at the playground, playing “sad reindeer” as she slouches over to me and laments “Mommy, I didn’t make the sleigh team.” Maybe next year, baby.

You can see that Rudolph is a major influence in our activities. So several weeks ago we were having one of those days where everyone woke up cranky and still tired. I took the girls to the park, hoping the fresh air and sunshine would clear our heads. It didn’t. We went to our scheduled play-date, against my better judgment, because it seemed easier to foist our crankiness upon our friends than go home alone and try to deal with the grumpiness until naptime. It was touch and go from the start, with my older daughter dissolving into tears a couple of times before I finally decided we just needed to go home. We said hasty goodbyes, got into the car, and, feeling like a bundle of raw nerves, I buckled the baby into her seat and hoped that we could start moving before she started shrieking. No such luck. I turned around to buckle in my older daughter and noticed that she was holding one of her friend’s toys.

It was Rudolph. His nose even lit up. But she hadn’t asked permission to borrow it.

I opened the car door. “Climb down and run to the back yard and give it back,” I told her. Insert full-on tantrum here. I lost my patience, shouted at her, and ended up running with her to return the toy—frustrated with her disobedience, frustrated by the wailing baby, frustrated with my lack of patience and gentleness.

How enthralled she was, how delighted, to see her favorite “Christmas friend” in the palm of her hand. I felt so ashamed at my failure to recognize something so incredibly significant to her, to completely disregard her feelings. By the time we got home, I just felt sad, and so disappointed in myself. I apologized to my daughter, reminded her that she still needs to get permission before borrowing her friends’ things, still needs to obey me when I give her an instruction and ask for her cooperation—but that none of that excused my impatience.

It’s taken me a while to write about this one. I still get a lump in my throat when I picture her sitting in that carseat, holding the toy and whispering to Rudolph, an image of joy that I utterly disregarded. I guess we both have a lot to learn from Rudolph. She can learn how to cope with the disappointment of not making that sleigh team, how to love misfits (and really, in God’s eyes, aren’t we all misfits?), and how to forgive those fickle, cliquish reindeer. And me? Well, I guess my experience with Rudolph and my daughter makes me feel like the abominable snow monster at the end of the film—one humbled bumble.

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