Thursday, November 24, 2005 | The Christmas season has always been one of my favorite times of year but I never really appreciated it until I became a father.

It’s fun seeing old traditions through the eyes of my daughter who is appreciating them for the first time. Listening to her talk about Santa and Rudolph reminds me of when I was young.

But there is a new, more adult reason behind my new appreciation of Christmas: It gives me a chance to find out who my real friends are – based on what gifts they give my daughter.

I know deep in my heart that if a family member or acquaintance gives my child a noisy gift, such as a toy musical instrument or a toy truck with realistic sounds, they are telling me, “I don’t like you so I’m passively aggressively expressing it by buying you a noisy gift.”

My brother taught me this rule of thumb when his child, Mitchell, was born and it has been consistent every holiday season and it seems to have worked out pretty accurately.

It’s pretty sneaky when you think about it. It’s not something you think about until the first time someone gives your kid a noisy gift. In fact, you might think the people genuinely appreciate you when you see the look of joy a noisy toy brings to a kid’s face.

But your feeling will change later that night when the family is supposed to be sleeping and your child starts banging the drum, playing the keyboard or operating the noisy item at midnight.

I guarantee the first thing that will come to mind, “Why does this person hate me so much they are using my child against me?”

But there are other gifts you can give a kid that send a message to his or her parents, especially if they’re of a religious nature. Nothing says “I believe you’re dooming your child to hell” like DVDs and computer games promoting any kind of religion.

Likewise, if the kids are under 12, give them DVDs or CDs that are rated “R” or have parental advisory stickers because the kids are guaranteed to raise fits if they can’t watch or listen to their gifts.

Some gifts aren’t from people who hate you, just friends and well-wishers who don’t understand your new life. Lots of time, new parents get gifts of clothing that are usually fancy-shmancy outfits featuring frills, cute sayings and way too many buttons. Basically, if you like the child’s parents, base clothing purchases on how quickly they can change their kids’ outfits when they make a mess, not on how much the outfits resemble the ones worn by Keira Knightley in “Pride and Prejudice.”

To be fair, there are some things that new parents do that can cause increased hatred from people who used to like them. One is sending out those Christmas letters that depict, in excruciating detail, how great your life is since you had a baby and mentions all the cute and stupid things your baby does and how it amazes you every day.

Another is sending out Christmas cards in the image of your child’s favorite show. I learned it the hard way but I know from personal experience even people who have kids don’t like seeing cards featuring Arthur and Dora The Explorer, and nobody appreciates seeing a Nativity scene featuring Elmo in the manger.

David Moye is a La Mesa-based writer who finds himself singing the theme song to Dora The Explorer when he thinks no one is listening.

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