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How Much Should Santa Spend on Gifts

Magic vs. Money: How Many Gifts Should Santa Bring?

Call me naive, but I was actually looking forward to my 4.5-year-old daughter's Christmas wish list. It's the first year she has really gotten the Santa thing enough to ask for specific presents, and I was hoping for a humorous list of unrealistic things like $1,000 or all the Beanie Babies that I could gently explain to her weren't not happening, combined with a few reasonable requests that I/Santa could pick up at Target or on Amazon. What I did not expect was a lengthy, well-thought-out list of gifts, the sum total of which hovers somewhere around a grand. Kid, hate to tell you, but Santa's last name is not Kardashian.

My daughter's transition into a mini Veruca Salt surprised me. Last year, after much coercion by me to come up with any request, she asked Santa for exactly one thing: a pink dog. Assuming she meant the stuffed variety and not Paris Hilton's puppy, I went online, and while it took me a bit longer than I expected to find a non-hideous pink stuffed pup, I eventually scored one for $24. Christmas wish granted.

But thanks to another year under her belt, increased verbal skills, and a rampant YouTube obsession, my daughter apparently decided Santa needed to up his game this year. Her wish list: a $100 FurReal Friends unicorn that Target just had to put on the cover of its toy catalog; an American Girl doll ($115), plus her fancy green dress ($35); a Fin Fun mermaid tail ($110); a bounce house ($200-plus); a pink ride-on car (I found this one for $310; I'm assuming a Hummer would work for her); and "a lot of Barbies" (cost unknown, but I'm guessing "a lot" doesn't come cheap).

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My first reaction was somewhere between "keep f*ckin' dreaming" and "am I raising a complete brat?" but not wanting to be a Grinch or stifle her belief in the all-powerful Santa, I had to think on my feet. "You know that Santa only brings the best-behaved kids two presents, right?" I reminded her/made up on the spot. She was cool with that, but picking which two gifts has proven a bit more challenging. Some days, it's the seasonally inappropriate bounce house and the mermaid tail. Others, it's that annoyingly expensive unicorn and an American Girl doll, which, if her grossly neglected Bitty Baby is any indicator, I'm pretty sure she'll never play with.

I mean, the girl's 4; I don't expect her to be exceptionally decisive (today alone she wore eight different pairs of socks before 8:30 a.m.), but her wavering has left me wondering whether Santa/I are going to disappoint her on Christmas morning, the one thing no parent wants to do. And yes, I realize that this internal debate is completely against the real spirit of the season, and I should probably just take her to soup kitchen and remind her that some kids don't even get a $24 pink dog. Still, deciding what Santa should deliver this year has me more stressed than trying to decorate our Christmas tree while her wild 22-month-old brother circled the ornaments, seemingly delighting in the decision of which to break first.

Why the stress? I figure this is the first of about three Christmases tops when my daughter is going to be old enough to embrace Santa and young enough to still believe in him. I want to make the most of this short window, maybe because I remember how excited I was at her age, when Santa delivered my first Cabbage Patch Kids doll (thanks, Dad, for braving the Cabbage Patch frenzy of '83), maybe because I'm a bit of a Christmas nut still, but mostly I think it's because I want her childhood to be full of as much magic as possible. Isn't that why we all continue the Santa charade? Because we remember how special it felt to us when we were kids and we want the same for our little ones? I just hope I could deliver the magic without maxing out Santa's credit card.

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