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I’m the NorthPark Santa. This is what children ask me for, and what we can learn from them

My name is Santa Claus.

Their names are Liam and Olivia, Titus and Emma Grace, Benjamin and Isabella, Mateo and Luz. Henry and Harper are popular, as are Riley, Sadie and Cooper, Kade and Abby, Juan Pablo and Daniela. And Luke, or Lucas. And Luka, Luka, Luka — the name of choice for so many boys aged 4 and younger.

My time in Dallas has led me to believe that a certain star basketball player might have something to do with that.

Many of them arrive to my cottage with endless questions for me.

“Am I on the nice list?”

“Hey, Santa, where are the reindeer?”

“Where are your elves?”

“Where’s Mrs. Claus?”

“What are the elves’ favorite toys to make?”

“Do you know my elf’s name?”

“Santa, what is your favorite kind of cookie?”

The round kind, of course! I am Santa Claus after all.

There is an anticipation of this season of joy and frenzied gift giving in the air as they come prepared with their wish lists.

Some are told that if they just behave for a certain amount of time, smile for just one picture please, then many infractions can be written off their accounts and could even result in immediate rewards, notwithstanding the cookies and candy canes Santa might already be offering.

The gifts we discuss include (but are never limited to!) the latest transforming thing, gaming systems, phones, makeup, watches, switches, squishies, Blueys, Barbies, Pokémon, microphones, and the reigning champion, LEGOs.

I often quiz children about what they like about school, especially the older ones, and many will concede an affinity for mathematics.

Here kids! I need you to solve for x:

ps5 + ns + ldc = x (in U.S. dollars)

Hint: ps5 is PlayStation, ns is Nintendo Switch, and ldc is LEGO Disney Castle.

Math does come in handy at the North Pole. I work on a lot of similar equations to get my sleigh to fly year after year on Christmas Eve.

Younger children can be harder to engage with, as they sometimes have phobias about the reality of my existence. Many talk a great game with mommies, and daddies, and caretakers, and nannies, and Pop Pops and GiGis, while they wait to see Santa. But when the corner is turned and the chips are down, so often their bravery is replaced by a stream of tears.

But it’s OK, my feelings aren’t hurt very easily.

Children aren’t right or wrong, good or bad, whether they are afraid of me or not. The world can be a scary place. Santa can be, the zoo can be, playgroups, dance recitals, school, sports teams, college, first day at work, new house, having babies … part of the human experience is facing our fears and learning from those experiences. It is conquering these challenges that makes life richer.

One child whispered, “I just want my family to be nicer to me,” when asked her Christmas wish. I asked if she was kind to her sibling standing close to her. “Sometimes…” was the answer. Her brother quickly responded when asked the same question: “Well, I could do better.”

And there is a great lesson to be learned here, too.

“How would you feel if your family were nicer to you?” I asked.

“It would make me happy,” she said.

“And how would they feel if you were nicer to them?” I asked.

“It would make them happy!” she replied.

When I visit with patients at Children’s Health, I always insist that I just had to make a special trip to see them. I needed to see their smiling faces. I needed to know that they are happy, even in the brief moments of hearing sleigh bells ring, a wave from the doorway, a small gift to give, a pat on their backs or a hug around the neck, and always a hearty “Ho ho ho!” from Santa just to see them smile.

It is my hope for Christmas, and every season, that we take time to be kind to one another. That we let others go first. That we understand their fears. That we smile more. And that we focus on the magic, joy, laughter and love of the season. And that by making others happy, we can be truly happy ourselves.

If you’re a child reading this, Joel Lagrone is Santa’s special helper at NorthPark Center. He helped the big guy write this for The Dallas Morning News.

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