We are a family of four who has been going to the Santa Claus parade every year for the past fourteen. We have a tradition of arriving around 9 a.m., setting up chairs along Bloor St., then enjoying brunch while we put in the hours until the parade. This remains one of our daughters’ favourite days of the year – even now that they’re teenagers. Without fail, another family arrives right before the parade and asks if they can sit in front because “we have small children.” Part of me finds this unfair; the other part feels badly for their kids. What is the ethical thing to do?
Remember: He’s making a list and checking it twice. He’s GONNA FIND OUT who’s naughty and nice.
Is that Santa or God? Back in my churchy days, I could never keep them straight at this time of year. Either way, it’s best not to tick off the Big Guy barely a month before his special day. He’s stressed enough already.
It is, however, one thing to play nice, and another to be played for a sucker.
So here’s how it works. You and your teenagers arrive early, enjoy brunch, and stake out your turf. When that lovely young family arrives five minutes before the Burlington Band and begs to butt in, you say, “We’d be glad to let your kids out front. Our daughters will keep an eye on them. But the adults will have to stand behind; this is a special time for our family, and we’ve been here since 9 a.m.”
That will evoke one of two possible responses. Some parents, the good ones, will be really grateful. They’ll thank you for your kindness, send their kids to the front of the line, and one of them will trot off to Starbucks for hot chocolate. The really nice ones will bring back shortbreads for your girls.
Another response is also possible, however. Parents of the helicopter variety will drone, “But I can’t let my kids out of my sight. Can’t you let us sit up front with them?”
To that, your response should be “No. If you’ve got to be that close to your kids, put them on your shoulders; then they can see from the back.”
There is a particularly odious breed of parents who insist on making their tribulations everybody else’s concern. They expect teachers to correct behavioural problems their kids learn at home. They expect religious institutions to teach their kids about a God whose name they never speak except in connection with the word “damn.” They want cops to treat their law-breaking prodigy with kid gloves, social workers to undo the consequences of fetal alcohol syndrome, shrinks to fix damage done by marital strife, doctors to treat obesity born of a lifetime of Doritos, coaches to “start” their kids even though they’ve missed the last five practices, neighbours to host every play-day because they’re “too busy” – and so on.
So they arrive at the parade 10 minutes before Santa and want you to fix their problem. Be nice – their kids have enough trouble. But if your offer is refused, hand them a lump of coal and turn your attention back to Rudolph.