I grew up believing in Santa. We came from a house where you went to bed in anticipation because you knew there were going to be awesome, amazing things under the tree from a big, fat man in a fur-trimmed suit. In fact, every year at my great-aunts house and our big Polish Christmas, one of the uncles would dress up, and we would always try to figure out which one it was. Just when we thought we had it figured out, that uncle would walk in and we would be totally stumped.I don’t remember the exact moment when I stopped believing.It wasn’t some big traumatic event for me. I do know I saw my mom wrapping presents one night, after she thought we were asleep,looking guilty and stammering that she was wrapping gifts for the cousins. By the time we moved when I was 10, I didn’t believe any more, but I also knew enough to not say anything to my brothers.
My husband was raised the same way, so, of course, our children would also get the magic and the fun behind all of that holiday mystery too. We nervously stuffed stockings after we checked and double checked they were asleep, we pulled secret presents hidden in every nook and cranny of our tiny home to put under the tree,ate cookies at 1am, leaving only crumbs, and dumped old,warm milk down the drain.
Of course, like lots of other parents,we learned very early on to use Santa in the from of behavior control. I mean, what smart parent wouldn’t? Right? The kids start acting like little jerks, pull out the Santa card. We even had him “programmed” in our cell phones at one point as physical proof for our little skeptics.We were all over it. And once we got George the Elf, it was even easier to play the game.
The one smart thing we did, was take the advice of a good friend who told us very early on, “Make sure Santa only brings little presents, the fluff. All the good stuff should come from you guys. After all, why should he get credit for your hard work? And if you have a tough year financially,Santa will always bring them something.” We followed that and it was great advice, I still tell new parents the same thing. We felt like holiday superheroes. We had it all figured out.
It was great for… years. Until now.
Here’s what they never tell you.
At some point Santa will go from being a fun secret to secret burden. Making you feel like you are sitting on a ticking bomb and wondering when it’s going to go off.
The worst things is,you know it’s coming, but you’re not sure when,kind of like planning a swimsuit-based vacation around your period.
And there’s no set age either. After taking a poll of friends, some kids had figured it out at nine, and others were freshmen in high school.So asking yourself “Are they too old to still be believing? Is it weird?Should we say something?” really has no set answer. Again, the true motto of parenting: Here’s this kid, you figure it out.
Knowing our kids were getting older, and that they have finally reached the age where we knew not all of their friend believed, we realize we were running out of time and we went from feeling the sneaky fun of Santa at Christmas to feeling skittish. We’ve really started to dread having to answer the big bad question. “Is Santa real?” It’s almost like it lurks around every corner.
No one tells you about that part… That one day, you will have to pay the piper for years of threatening your kids to call the big toy guy for the smallest infraction.
We’ve heard stories where kids were traumatized by their parents answers. We had a friend who’s child entering the 6th grade had not only the big, ugly reproduction “talk” in school, but then found out about not only Santa, but the tooth fairy and Easter bunny in one fell swoop. My friend was traumatized and said it felt like their childhood had been ripped from them in one week.
This year, the two older kids have asked in round about ways, but not really point blank. We’ve always given these really non-committal answers because they always seemed to ask in front of Little, and we really didn’t want them to blow it for her yet. A blanket answer of “If you don’t believe, you don’t receive” kind of a thing has kind of kept them at bay.Kind of. But we always said if they asked us at point blank, the truth was in order. We had been coasting so far this year.
Until last Friday. I was cornered in the laundry room. They always go after you when you guard is down. Little opportunists.They would make great car salesmen.
It was one of the older two. “Um, Momma?”
My senses kicked in, and I scrunched my shoulders,I actually knew what was coming before she said it. I think it was the way she was twiddling her fingers and looking at the ground.
It had that “I am about to lay some heavy stuff on you” look to it.
“Some of my friends at the lunch table have said the parents are the ones who give presents. Not Santa.”
Damn lunch table.
“Do you really want to know the truth?” I asked her, peeking around for the other two and hoping she’d say no.
She nodded and I knew I had to fess up. Just like the reproductive talk. That was 20 minutes before the school bell rang. It’s always great timing with her, but that’s another story altogether. I was much more traumatized than she was.
“Well, Santa is actually a much bigger thing than just presents.He’s a fun idea that makes people happy. So, yes, Dad and I get the presents, and Santa is not a real person, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something real about the idea. Jesus is what gives us real joy in the holiday, but Santa is a fun thing to do. Does that make sense?”
She looked really deep in thought and nodded.I think we were both a little relieved that that part was over. “Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, I kinda thought so for a while.” She answered.”I guess I can touch the elf then? It’s just a doll?”
I nodded, smiled and hugged her. That went easier than I thought. “Please don’t spill the beans for your sisters. They’ll figure it out soon enough.”
She nodded again and I breathed a sign of relief, but I knew the band-aid was only partially off. I needed to finish the job. I took another breath.
“Hey babe, you know that goes for other mythological creatures as well, right?” I tensed my lips together as her eyes suddenly brightened and then narrowed in understanding.
“Like the Easter bunny and the Tooth Fairy??!!!I knew it! I knew it! I knew there was a reason the tooth fairy didn’t come for 4 days once! I knew it wasn’t because she was training a new assistant who couldn’t find our house!!! I knew you forgot!!!
One down. Two to go.
For holiday inspiration make sure to see all of the homes in the 2015 holiday house walk!