Negotiating Santa – How We Use “Contracts” to Explain and Change Gift Giving Holiday Traditions

You can chalk this one up in the “things no one prepares you for” column: your Kindergartener comes home talking about the “gold coin” her bff received from the tooth fairy last night. Suddenly, extracting that first wiggly tooth becomes her full time job so that she, too, can get a gold coin from the tooth fairy. Trouble is, I have NO IDEA what this gold coin entails. A real gold coin? A plastic gold doubloon? A chocolate coin wrapped in gold foil?

What’s a parent to do?

How do you explain that a) you don’t know what kind of gold coin currency the Tooth Fairy works with, and that b) you genuinely don’t have the time or energy to make sure we have a supply of gold coins on hand for sporadically lost teeth?

The answer?! Pull out the “Tooth Fairy Contract, of course.”

See, in our house, we (the Tooth Fairy and I) agreed on a set dollar amount per lost tooth, that was to be paid in un-glittered US currency as required. At that moment, our “contract” with the Tooth Fairy was born. It made it easy to explain that in her friend’s home, the Tooth Fairy brought gold coins – because that was what her parents had put in their unique contract. Each family was able to make their own agreement that works for them, and at the same time I was saved from not knowing exactly what the gold coin thing was all about.

Contracts aren’t just with the Tooth Fairy. Ohhh, no. Need to explain why the Easter bunny gives PlayStations down the street, but doesn’t put them in your basket? Electronics must be in their contract.

Not sure how to explain why a friend’s Elf on a Shelf makes huge elaborate messes, while yours literally moves from shelf to shelf? It’s in the contract. Those parents agreed to be responsible for the mess and potential damage inflicted by their Elf – you did not. Unsurprisingly, because all that planning and clean up? That’s a hard pass from this mama.

In our house, Santa brings three presents (because Baby Jesus got three and the extended family is IN.DUL.GENT. y’all!). Our family contract also stipulates that there are no live animals in the sleigh.

Perhaps a three present rule won’t or can’t work for your family, but do you know what else the contract is good for? Changing traditions that are no longer serving your family. If something just isn’t working anymore, it sounds like you need to take the time to renegotiate your contract – then let the wider family know about these updates and how they can follow them.

Transitioning from kid holidays to preteen/teen holidays? This is a great time to renegotiate the contract.

Want to add in a new tradition or change something up (for example, the way Tooth Fairy delivers the goods to the third child who is a natural sceptic and a light sleeper, to boot)? This sounds like an excellent time to amend your contract.

Maybe it doesn’t seem like it, but this definitely doesn’t need to be complicated. The use of family contracts is simply a tool to help you manage questions, values, and do what is best for your family. It was born from a spontaneous answer to an innocent question from a Kindergartener, who is now in sixth grade and at the end of her ‘believing’ journey. But per our contract with all the gift bringing entities, “If you don’t believe, you don’t receive”… and this holiday loving mama hopes to keep the game going for at least a few more years.

A fifth-generation San Antonionian - who happened to spend her formative years in Austin - Amanda loves the SAT from the confetti in her hair to the bluebonnets under her feet. Never one to miss a reason to host a party or decorate for a theme, Amanda revels in the 'mas Fiesta' attitude of the city. She's mom to Vivi (2012) aka #HurricaneVivi, Mac (2020) and wife to Francois, whom she met at Texas A&M (FTAC '05). She has a Masters in Early Childhood Education and a Doctorate in Making it Up As She Goes - which means she's a sometimes-fun-mom. You can find her on Instagram . She loves confetti, croissants, and a cold Ranch Water. Favorite Restaurant: Piatti's Favorite Landmark: Johnson Street footbridge in King William Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Fiesta Medals