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Motherhood: Some Serious Shit

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***Originally published at parhelionliterary.com.

By Melissa Face

“Mom?”

“Yeah, buddy?”

“Do you think you could use another word in place of ‘shit’ sometimes?” my son asked.

“Sure, if I can send your sister away for a few days,” I laughed.

“Seriously, Mom.”

My son, Evan, is eight. He wants the best for everyone, and he is often in search of improvement for himself and others. He serves as my life coach when he is able to escape the demands of his full-time gig as a second grader.

A few weeks ago, he was considering a career in psychiatry until he discovered that taking classes was a major part of college life and quickly changed his mind.

“What did you think people did in college?” I asked him.

“I thought you just sat around and talked about what you want to be when you grow up,” he said.

I found his response relieving. It’s nice when he reminds me he’s still a kid and needs me for more than groceries and transportation.

And he’s right about my potty mouth. I do need to stop saying “shit” so frequently. But what would be an equally satisfying replacement?

From a grammatical standpoint, it’s quite resourceful, serving as a noun, adjective, verb, or interjection. “Shit” is also incredibly versatile, allowing you to add “aww”, “bull”, “horse”, “oh”, “no”, or “holy” in front of it. You can be knee deep in it, full of it, a real piece of it, out of luck, or in need of getting yours together.

There are so many moments of motherhood for which “shit” is the most natural and appropriate response:

When my daughter spills an entire box of cereal on the floor because she just had to pour it herself – “Shit.”

When my son forgets to bring home the field trip form that needed to be signed today, but remembered to buy another smencil – “Shit.”

When my daughter calls me into her room to show me the stains on her new comforter that resulted from sleeping with scented markers – “Shit!”

When my son comes home with a slice in his new shirt because he “accidentally cut it in art class” – “Shit. Shit. Shit.”

Yesterday, I kept Evan’s request in mind when we drove to a salon at the mall, our third expedition to coerce my 5-year-old daughter into getting an overdue haircut. She has been convinced that even a slight trim would leave her with short hair like her brother’s.

She almost didn’t make it to the salon chair yesterday, either. For a moment, we had a runner. But I caught her and calmed (bribed) her in the hallway, and she climbed into the booster seat. The stylist trimmed about a half-inch of Delaney’s golden locks, and the situation was resolved peacefully. We survived, and I didn’t say “shit” throughout the entire ordeal.

On our way out of the mall, Delaney grew tired of walking. She bumped into two different mannequins in Dick’s Sporting Goods because she was walking backwards. I fussed at her and made her hold my hand for the next few minutes, but I didn’t say “shit”.

Then, in JCPenney, Delaney plowed into an elderly lady because she had decided to walk a while with her eyes closed.

“Excuse me,” the lady said.

“Excuse you,” Delaney responded.

“No, excuse ME,” I prompted Delaney.

“Why? You didn’t do anything,” Delaney questioned.

I grabbed her hand again, ending our reenactment of Who’s On First, and headed towards the exit. I didn’t say “shit”.

Seconds later, she stopped in the middle of the walkway to get a rock out of her shoe. She had to “unjust” it. I tried to tell her we would be at the car in mere moments, but she was adamant. It had to be fixed right then. I was annoyed and exhausted, but I still didn’t say “shit”.

Finally, we made it to the car and opened the door. Delaney started to climb in, then for some reason stepped backwards, planting her Mary Jane shoe right on my big toe. I was wearing sandals.

And it happened. I didn’t even have a chance to think about it. It was completely visceral; the words just shot right out of my mouth.

“Holy Shit!” I screamed.

I don’t know what else to say, but I’m open to reasonable suggestions.

Lessons and Goals

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by Melissa Face

“I want to learn how to wipe my butt,” Delaney said to the principal during her admissions interview. He had asked her what she would like to accomplish in junior kindergarten. Delaney’s response, completely heartfelt and sincere, proved that she understood how to set a goal. It also proved that I was still susceptible to embarrassment from my children.  

That was exactly one year ago.

Now Delaney is one month away from completing her first year of full-time school. She accomplished her initial goal early in the school year, and she has done so much more since then.

Delaney has made many friends in her class, and she talks about them constantly. Each afternoon, she gives me the rundown of who was on green, yellow, and red for the day.

“How about you?” I ask her.

“Green, of course,” she says, with a sprinkle of sass.

And with only a few exceptions, she has left school “on green” every afternoon.

The uniform I worried she would refuse to wear became the one item of clothing that we didn’t have to argue about. In fact, the uniform allowed us five days of fuss-free dressing most weeks. We still had many hairstyle battles, but the plaid jumper was a pillar of stability in our home.

The cafeteria food that I feared she would snub became her most balanced meal of the day. Carrots and broccoli are much more exciting when the school chef sings and does a happy dance after each bite a child takes. It also helped that her friends were sitting next to her, eating the same foods.

Delaney learned how to write her name, spell a few, short words, rhyme, count, and add single digit numbers using her fingers. She learned about religion, how to get along with others, and to treat people with kindness – even when they were unkind to her.

Our proudest moment this year was when Delaney was recognized as the March Peacemaker for her class. Her school held a ceremony, and each child’s teacher read a personal letter that detailed the student’s selection.

Craig and I sat and listened as Delaney’s teacher described our daughter’s charitable acts that included: helping friends when they felt sad, giving up a coloring sheet when someone wanted the other side, and encouraging her classmates to make good decisions.

Then, we had the opportunity to take home a sign to display Delaney’s award in our yard. We placed the sign at the end of the driveway, and when Delaney came home that afternoon, she hopped out of the car and kissed it. She was so proud of her award.

I know this is just the beginning; she has so much to look forward to. And as her mom, I will have many reasons to be proud of her in the future.

Delaney is registered for kindergarten at her brother’s school next year, and she has already decided that she will need a unicorn backpack in September. She’s aware of the transition and is looking forward to it.

And while I am also looking forward to having them both in the same place next year, it’s Delaney’s turn to be patient with me for a while.

I am having an adjustment period.

I am experiencing separation anxiety.

I need to hold on to these last few weeks of junior kindergarten as long as I can. I need Delaney to forgive me if I drive more slowly than usual on our morning trip down Washington Street. I need her to understand if I take the scenic route walking her into before care.

Far too many times, I have wished the weeks and months away, counted them down, looking forward to something better. But it occurred to me that even though we have great things to anticipate, maybe this is the something better. Right now. These are the days that should be savored, not counted down.

I know Delaney was a great student this year, but you can probably guess who learned the real lessons.

 

Miss Thing and Mammie Talk Facebook and Family

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I call her Mammie; we all do.

And ever since I was a child, she has been one of my most favorite people in the world. We look very similar in pictures from our teenage years, and we both appreciate coffee, hunky men on the Hallmark Channel, and a good belly laugh.

Last year when I received a Facebook friend request from her, I was thrilled that we could communicate online and that I could share essays I write,  pictures of my kids,   and some of the events Mammie is unable to attend.

I’ve enjoyed her presence on Facebook so much that I wrote a story about it, and it was included in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents.

I love that on Facebook, I am Miss Thing and we are all Mammie’s Doll Babies.

I wanted to celebrate the release of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents this week by interviewing Mammie about her Facebook experience. Here is what she had to say:

 

Q: Why did you want a Facebook account?

A: Being at home a lot, I figured it would be fun and interesting and would help me keep abreast of the world and my family.

Q: What do you like about Facebook the most?

A: Seeing my grandchildren’s pics and family’s pics and knowing what they’re all doing.

Q: What do you dislike?

A: Rude remarks and vulgar language. I quickly delete it all from my feed.

Q: What is the funniest thing you’ve read or seen since you opened your account?

A: Too many to keep up with. Something one of my grandchildren said.

Q: Which grandchild?

A: I’m not telling.

Q: What advice would you give to others your age who might be considering joining Facebook?

A: It brings you closer to your family, even in thought. Maybe you can’t always be there in person to keep up with changes or their education, so this is the next best thing. Also, don’t put anything too personal out there, and don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.

Q: What is the best part of being a grandmother?

A: When I’m at home, sitting in my chair, they come in the door, run straight to me and say, “Hey, Mammie! I love you!”

Q: What is something you would like people to know about you?

A: That I’m beautiful! Hahaha! And that I have the best family in the whole world.

 

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents is available online and in stores March 26, 2019.

Below is an excerpt from my story, “Mammie’s Doll Babies.”

Sometimes, Mammie’s presence on Facebook makes me chuckle. One day, I woke up to 38 notifications from her. She was up at 3 in the morning, liking pictures from two years ago. I figured she must have had trouble sleeping, and she was looking at pictures to help pass the time.

Then there’s her special way of commenting on posts. She calls us all her doll babies, even those of  us who are approaching 40 years old, and she always signs her comments, “Love, Mammie.” After I posted a picture of my kids and me on a recent camping trip, she commented, “Here are three of Mammie’s little doll babies. Looks like a fun and happy time. Love you, Mammie.”

A friend asked me the other day if I was going to tell her that she didn’t need to sign her name at the end of her comments.

“I sure am not,” I told my friend. “She can use Facebook however she wants. I’m not criticizing a thing about what she does.”

Read more in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents.

 

Myrtle and Me

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by Melissa Face

***Published in Parhelion Literary Magazine – February 2019

When I first arrived, Myrtle greeted me with the embrace of a summer cousin, welcoming and warm. Her palm trees and wide beaches summoned me. Her nightlife on Ocean Boulevard by the Pavilion captivated me. I couldn’t wait to settle in and taste all the excitement she had to offer.

My stay on the Grand Strand was supposed to last only for that one summer, then I would return home. A month earlier, after wrapping up my sophomore year at a Virginia college, I begged my parents to allow me to do something different with my break from school, let me go away for a while. I couldn’t take another claustrophobic summer working at the diner in my hometown. My mom wrote to her cousins, Betty and Garrett, who lived in the old Dunes section of Myrtle Beach, and they agreed to host me for a couple months and offered to help me find work.

As soon as I heard that Myrtle was official, I started packing: clothes, books, pictures of my high school and college friends, and my bathing suit. I was going to be at the beach, after all.

Betty and Garrett couldn’t have been more accommodating. They provided a room, a large rack for my clothes, and a new bed. Almost immediately, I found my first job as a hostess at Chuck’s Steakhouse. I worked as often as they would schedule me, and when I wasn’t working, I shopped and chatted with Betty. She made coffee in the mornings and cooked some in the evenings. In the first few weeks, I read every book I had brought with me and walked to the beach several times by myself. I wasn’t the least bit lonely; I found the solitude completely liberating.

My hostess job was intimidating initially. Everyone else had been together through the spring months, and I was the new girl. Because we shared tips at Chuck’s, I worked hard to help out the wait staff and bartenders in hopes that they would tip out a little more than the required amount.

I helped Antonio more than the others. I quickly cleared his tables so he could seat new parties. He thanked me with secret smiles and a playful grab of the arm. I liked watching him work, his muscles bulging beneath his white Chuck’s t-shirt.

“This is just my part-time gig,” he told me. “I own a business.”

At first I felt offended, as though having just this job were not enough. But I soon learned that almost everyone at Chuck’s had a second job. It was essential to survival; beach rent was high, and wages were low.

One night Antonio and I clocked out at the same time. He watched me climb in my ‘73 Chevelle and pulled up next to me in his red, convertible Camaro.

“Hot girl in a hot car,” he said with a sly grin. Then he peeled out onto Highway 17, a red streak headed north.

At that moment, I knew I had to have him, just a little taste. And I thought that still might not be enough.

Antonio and I dated for a while, if you can call it that. He took me to a couple of pricey restaurants and flashed stacks of cash around when the bill came. His money made sense to me at the time. Antonio was a hard worker. He distributed spring water around the Grand Strand during the day and waited tables at night. But after dates and after our shifts at work, there was no place to invite me back to, nowhere for a night cap or a make-out session on the couch. Antonio was essentially homeless and shacked up with any friends who would have him, from Little River to Murrells Inlet. He stayed until he wore out his welcome, then moved on to the next spot.

I saw him settle up with a former roommate one night after work. Antonio grabbed a small container from his car and handed it to his buddy. He referred to it as payment, but it definitely wasn’t money. I pretended to not notice their little exchange, but I wanted to know what was inside the bottle. I had so many questions. I hoped Myrtle would answer them.

*** 

After work, I saw a side of Myrtle I hadn’t encountered before. Myrtle’s nights were filled with sirens, a darker side of the resort city that tourists knew little about and events that didn’t make it into The Sun News.

I was glad I wasn’t a tourist any longer. I was officially a resident, South Carolina driver’s license and everything. I had the inside scoop on the place I had fallen in love with many summers ago. I loved it even though it was nothing like I thought it would be. I was learning and experiencing things I had never imagined, things that would give my parents nightmares. Things that, if they knew, they would come get me and take me back home.

***

Myrtle was my home now, and I was making friends. And not just Antonio. About a month after I started working at Chuck’s, the manager hired a dark-haired girl named Rose. We hit it off right away and started chatting about tips, customers, and beauty routines.

“You should show more leg,” Rose said, in her sexy southern accent. “Let me take you shopping after work one day next week.”

I explained that my tips didn’t come directly from the customers, so it really didn’t matter how visible my legs were.

“Oh, it always matters, Honey,” she laughed.

Rose and I were happy when our shifts coincided. Time passed quickly for me when she was working. After a few months, she began waiting tables, but I remained a hostess. I was convinced I had made the right decision when Rose fell in the kitchen with a full tray of glasses and dishes. I helped her clean up in the bathroom, wiped her dripping mascara, and picked broken glass from the cuts in her legs.

A few minutes later, she was back working, chatting and serving. Rose was a force, and she made great tips.

“You should see the tips I make at my other job,” she told me.

“Other job?” I asked.

I had to be the only Chuck’s employee who wasn’t moonlighting.

“What are you doing after work tonight?” Rose asked.

I didn’t have plans, but I told her I would need to tell the people I lived with that I was staying the night with her.

“Well, don’t just tell them that,” she said. “Do it! Stay with me. Hell, I’ll even stop by and meet them if it will make you feel better.”

And that’s exactly what we did once my shift ended.

We pulled up to Betty and Garrett’s and went inside to grab my things. I was careful to pack several tops since I still wasn’t sure exactly where we were going. While I grabbed my make-up bag from the bathroom, Rose was already in the middle of a conversation with Betty and Garrett.

They were instantly charmed. After all, Rose was a local. And everyone in Myrtle Beach looked out for other locals.

We said our goodbyes and headed to Rose’s apartment to get ready for our evening out. She applied my eye make-up and loaned me a bra that gave me the extra boost she said I needed. Even though I had brought some tops to wear, I ended up wearing one of Rose’s. It was a little more revealing than what I was used to, but I liked how I looked. And I really liked how I felt.

***

My “summer” fling with Myrtle evolved into an 8-year love affair. It wasn’t always beaches and palm trees, though. There were many dark times, and not just at night. Myrtle introduced me to poverty, addiction, and emptiness. I witnessed an overdose, lost a friend to murder, and learned to work any type of job that would pay my rent.

Myrtle was a stern teacher.

Months after ending things with Antonio, I learned that the Camaro wasn’t even his. He borrowed it from a friend. For some reason, that was an incredible let-down. He didn’t have the financial capability to secure an apartment or make a traditional car payment, but he was able to amass a collection of little bottles that he used for currency. Today, Antonio is in prison in New York state for stealing thousands of dollars worth of equipment and tools from his last job.

I don’t know what happened to Rose. I can still see her silhouette behind the curtain that night we went out together. I remember how the room reeked of stale tobacco and sweaty bodies, but Rose glistened onstage. I was mesmerized by her southern accent initially, then completely enchanted by her movement and confidence.

Maybe she left the area after I did, returned to school and found a stable career. Perhaps she’s still living in Garden City and some nights, she paints her lips ruby red and wraps her legs around the metallic pole before an appreciative crowd. Wherever she is, I hope she is okay and that Myrtle was good to her. I hope she still shines.

The Best Goal He Never Reached

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by Melissa Face

***Published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution – Copyright 2008

I love making lists. I enjoy accomplishing tasks and being able to see my progress on a sheet of paper with lines marked through it. I make shopping lists, lists for chores around the house, and projects at work. I find it incredibly motivating to put my goals on paper. And that is why, at the end of each December, I sit down at my kitchen table with paper and pen and write “The Mother List.”

My New Year’s list is as important to me as any other holiday tradition. Like watching the ball drop in Times Square, or making a midnight champagne toast, my New Year is not official without a complete, updated list.

I make annual financial goals, career goals, fitness goals, and educational goals. Some are very realistic and easily reached. Others are a bit more far fetched and require a lot of wishful thinking. But that’s okay. January is the perfect month for high hopes and big dreams.

About seven years ago, my New Year’s list included going back to school for a graduate degree. I knew it would be a difficult task for a working adult, but I had to go for it, especially once my goal was on paper. I took courses on Saturdays and Sundays and worked Monday through Friday. I was quickly reminded why I was so happy and relieved when I finally completed my undergraduate degree. The stress was overwhelming: working on papers until 3:00 a.m., sitting in class for eight hours, and dreaming about oversleeping and missing class. That actually happened once. I finished the degree and crossed it off my list.

Four years ago, the first item on my list was to become a published writer. I had always been passionate about writing, but my credits were limited to a few high school publications and a local poetry contest. At the time, I was working for a company that published a weekly newspaper. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose, so I proposed a column idea to the publisher. He liked my proposal and my first article went to press in November of that year. I reached my goal.

I wrote for that paper, The Myrtle Beach Herald, for a little more than two years. I wrote a business column, covered a Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan concert, and interviewed numerous officials in the Myrtle Beach area and surrounding counties. But no one of political importance or celebrity status made a bigger impression on me than a lady named Rennie Lansberg.

I interviewed Mrs. Lansberg, a recent widow, for the obituary section of the paper. It was my job to find out all I could about her deceased husband and write a piece that truly captured his essence. It was the most challenging assignment I had ever been given. How do you write, in 400 words or fewer, a person’s life story? How do you determine what to include and what to leave out?

Mrs. Lansberg told me that her husband, Fred, was a religious man who treasured his family and his friendships. He loved to travel, especially on all-inclusive cruise ships, and his favorite food was Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches. In fact, that was his last meal.

Fred Lansberg was the type of man anyone would be proud to call a friend. He cooked for the homeless, donated blood regularly, and worked tirelessly for his church. He was a former accountant, and though he was a dedicated employee who was named “favorite bean counter”, he was equally dedicated to his social life. Fred Lansberg was often found surrounded by friends, wearing a t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, and a broad smile.

Towards the end of the emotionally draining interview, Mrs. Lansberg told me that her husband was a very goal-oriented person and that he made many lists. She said his most recent goal had been to read his father’s entire collection of Charles Dickens novels. “He didn’t do it though,” she said. “He was too busy enjoying his life.”

As it turns out, it was the best goal he never reached.

The brief time I spent interviewing Rennie Lansberg has made a lasting impression on me. I think about her story often, especially in December when I sit down to write my annual list. I have not stopped writing my list, but this experience has changed my perspective.

Last year, I accomplished most of my goals. I paid down the credit card balance, exercised more, and cut back on sugar. But I did not get around to organizing my home,  labeling my digital photos, or reading all the books stacked on my shelf. I planned to, but I didn’t have the time. I was too busy enjoying life.

All I Want for Christmas

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by Melissa Face

This year, Evan and Delaney (respectively) asked Santa for smelly markers and cat stuff. I quit worrying a long time ago about whether Santa (or anyone waiting behind us in line to visit him) would think we were a strange family. It’s okay. I know we are.

I also know that Santa appreciated their modest, budget-friendly wish list because the days for simple requests are definitely numbered in our household. They will soon ask for big-ticket items like expensive shoes, gaming systems, and tech gadgets that haven’t even been invented yet. But not this year. This would be the Christmas of cat pillows, art supplies, and scented stickers.

Sure, I could have worked with Santa to pull off an additional Christmas surprise, a larger gift for them to enjoy, but I just didn’t feel like creating a want that wasn’t there. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a young child years ago, before I had children of my own.

“Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?” I asked him.

“Yes! I did! I even got things I didn’t KNOW I wanted!” he responded.

The child was excited and adorable, but I’ve held on to this line for years now. This is what parents do. We let our children know what they should want. We put the ideas in their heads for things they should ask for, things they might enjoy. (Most of the time, their actual wants are quite simple.) Then, we take pictures of the Santa spread to show everyone online what we were able to do for our children. I have done it, too.

But not this year.

This year, with the exception of a few, small surprises, Evan and Delaney received exactly what they asked for. And this year, coming downstairs to see what Santa brought was not the highlight of Christmas. The true magic appeared in all of the little moments that followed.

Since Christmas morning, they have played together with every gift they received. Evan has helped Delaney create beaded necklaces and decoupage, and Delaney has worked with Evan on Lego projects and complex art designs.

And of course, they have spent hours and hours with their smelly markers. Some nights we have to take the markers away from them and force them to go to bed. Then, we check on them an hour later and find them asleep with a couple markers under their pillows and blue and orange streaks below their noses. We are starting to think they may have a marker problem.

This was truly one of our favorite Christmases, and the best part has been watching an incredible bond develop between my children. They really are best friends. They want to be together constantly (remember the pic of them in the dentist’s chair??), and they make cards and gifts for each other when they have to be apart.

Sure, they have their moments of friction like most siblings do. Just this morning, Delaney pushed Evan out of bed while the three of us were snuggling.

“Laney! Why would you do that?” I fussed.

“I just wanted more room. I’m sorry.”

In true Evan spirit, he forgave his sister, and ten minutes later they were playing with their markers again. It doesn’t matter what toys they have, as long as they get to play with them together.

The best things in life really are free, or easily purchased at 5 Below. I’m glad Santa listened to my kids’ request this year. I’m glad I did, too.

 

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Becoming a Redskins Fan

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by Melissa Face (published at http://www.sasee.com December 2018)

I read an article years ago about how important it is to appreciate gifts from children, especially those that are handmade. Children want to give, but they have neither the money nor the transportation to shop at a store. So, they make things for the people they care about. It is one of the purest expressions of love that exists.

My children are no exception. They draw, cut, color and paste items from around the house, sometimes items that already belong to me. They present these items to us on holidays with so much pride their faces literally glow.

Last July, my two kids handed me a gift bag on my birthday. I watched them nearly burst as I pulled out dozens of creations they made from napkins: hearts covered in stickers, cards with fringed edges, and cut-outs of our entire family. I told them that I loved everything they made, and that I truly appreciated the thought and hard work that they put into their gifts.

Now that my older child, Evan, is in elementary school, he has the opportunity to buy Christmas gifts through his school’s Secret Santa Shop. Last December, we sent twenty dollars to school for him to shop for: his sister, grandparents, father, and me. He came home that day, told us he had bought wonderful gifts, and then went to his room to wrap them so they could go under the tree.

A few weeks before Christmas, my husband, Craig, and my son were watching a Steelers game. My husband has been a Steelers fan all his life. And though I really don’t give a hoot about football, I mimic his enthusiasm to keep things fun.

Throughout the game, Evan kept asking my husband questions about the Washington Redskins.

“Do you like the Redskins?” Evan asked him.

“No. Not really,” my husband answered. “They have never been a team that I follow.”

“Well, what would be your second favorite team?” Evan inquired.

“I guess if I had to pick a second favorite, I would say the Patriots, since I’m from New England.”

“Oh. Okay. What is your third favorite team?”

“I’m not really sure, Buddy. I’ve never thought about a third favorite team before. Maybe the Broncos.”

“Okay,” Evan responded.

Evan and his dad continued watching the Steelers game. Craig noticed that Evan had become quieter and appeared to be deep in thought.

Evan said, “I think my second favorite team is the Redskins.”

“That’s fine,” Craig told him. “You can like any team you want.”

“Washington is pretty close by, Dad,” Evan rationalized. “We could easily go to one of their games.”

“You’re right, Buddy. We sure could,” Craig agreed.

A while later, the Steelers game had wrapped up and Craig and Evan were throwing the football in the playroom. Evan blurted out, “Dad! I think I really messed up!”

“What’s wrong, Buddy? What do you mean?”

“All my school had for football gifts was Redskins stuff. So, I had to buy you a Redskins present for Christmas.”

My husband’s heart sank. He searched for words to console Evan. He told him that the Redskins were a great team and that they would make plans to go see them play one day.

Evan seemed satisfied, but Craig felt miserable. There is not much worse than seeing your child disappointed.

In the days leading up to Christmas, my husband and I made an effort to mention the Redskins in casual conversation. We talked about their record, how my great-grandfather was a faithful fan, and Evan and Craig looked online at player profiles. We did everything we could to make Evan feel better about his purchase.

On Christmas morning, the kids opened their gifts from Santa, enjoyed their stockings, and played with new toys. Then, Evan jumped up and yelled, “It’s my turn to hand out gifts!” He went to the tree and grabbed his presents and passed them out.

The first gift he handed out was for his dad. Craig opened the square box and pulled out a Redskins bracelet.

“Do you like it?” Evan asked.

“I love it,” Craig responded, as he slid it onto his wrist. “And it fits me perfectly.”

The rest of Evan’s gifts were also a hit, and our entire Christmas morning was one of the best we have ever had as a family.

Months have passed since Craig received his Redskins bracelet and became the team’s newest fan. He still wears it every single day.

And when the day comes that it breaks and can no longer be worn, we will retire it to my desk drawer, where it will reside alongside our other treasures: handmade cards, napkin creations, and coloring sheets. It will be in good company, among the best gifts a parent could ever receive.