- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2004

Our 19-month-old Little Viking has celebrated his second Christmas, and as opposed to last year, this time he was able to participate in many activities leading up to and during this very special holiday.

The “participation” didn’t always lead to fruitful results, but they were fun experiences for all of us and provided many great photo opportunities.

Decorating the Christmas tree was one of those moments. “Careful, careful, caaaaareful,” we would say as the Little Viking dropped one fragile, shiny ball after another.

A decorated Christmas tree seems to hold almost as much appeal and temptation for a child as candy in a candy store. The tree, which has spent about a month in our home, looks very different now from when we initially decorated it. The decorations have migrated north, leaving the bottom three feet pretty bare.

Fortunately, we picked a good tree this year and rather enjoy the branches au naturel — even if the sense of symmetry is completely off.

The Little Viking also helped with the Christmas baking — we made a dozen holiday cookie and candy boxes for friends and neighbors. We gave the Little Viking a shot at making ginger snaps. We even got truck and pig cookie cutters for his sake, but while we all had a lot of laughs, he failed to turn out anything that even remotely resembled a cookie.

As we rolled out the dough, he grabbed and squeezed portions of what must have seemed like Play-Doh. Then he threw it on the floor, where a happy scavenger — Loke the 90-pound dog — was reminded yet again that a 19-month-old child is not just a pest: The flour-covered, apron-wearing 34-incher can actually provide a four-legged friend with quite the culinary treat.

Wrapping gifts was another fun exercise. We soon learned that the Little Viking’s strength was pulling things out, from wrapping paper to ribbon, while the actual wrapping was not. The ribbon ended up around his arms and legs, and the wrapping paper got wadded up instead of stretched around boxes of toys and books.

Unwrapping gifts, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be an acquired skill. Humans must be born with this talent, and the Little Viking is no exception.

We started opening gifts on Christmas morning, but to our surprise, didn’t get very far. The Little Viking tore open the first gift, a plastic dog equipped with a mini piano/xylophone. Instead of disregarding it after a couple of minutes and going for the next package, which is what we had expected, he spent at least 20, maybe 30, minutes examining, playing with and pulling this ill-tuned child’s instrument.

The Little Viking’s dad and I started getting a little impatient. We had a 10 a.m. service to attend. We reached for another gift, a wooden puzzle, to replace the dog. The Little Viking’s attention was focused on the new gift for a long time.

Again, he had to be persuaded to open another gift, this time a toddler tape recorder. He opened the tape deck and turned on the microphone. Another 20 minutes went by, and now we really had to get going, so we decided the gift opening would have to continue later.

We never could have imagined, however, that gift-opening would end up taking place in four phases over three days between walking dogs, visiting with friends and eating holiday meals.

We also were wrong about which gift the Little Viking would like the best. It wasn’t the tape recorder, the puzzle, the piano dog, the miniguitar, the portable easel, the “Clifford the Big Red Dog” book, the model plane with tool set, the Play-Doh or the fancy trike. (The tricycle clearly carries a lot of promise, though. He likes riding it because it has a comfortable seat and is equipped with a parent “pusher.” But pedaling does take time to learn, and the Little Viking’s legs are still a tad too short.)

His very favorite ended up being one of the more modest gifts, a little Thomas the Tank Engine train on a short track, powered by one AA battery. The engine came with two cars, Annie and Clarabel. The Little Viking spent hours hooking and unhooking the cars, learning to run the train on the track, turning the power on and off. He was contented — and still is.

How refreshing that we were so wrong. Last Christmas we were sure we had seen the last of a Little Viking without greed. We thought that by 19 months, he would have gotten a greedy streak.

The Little Viking showed us, however, that the value is not in the quantity of presents. It is in the quality. And so closes another year of lessons for usfrom a little person 30 years our junior and still wearing diapers.

Gabriella Boston and her husband welcomed their “Little Viking” in May 2002. Send e-mail to gboston@washingtontimes.com.

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