I was about my oldest son’s age when I stopped believing in Santa. At age 8, I recall looking through a stack of photos of our family’s recent Christmas festivities. That’s when I noticed a photo of our unwrapped “Santa gift,” placed carefully under the tree. The time stamp read sometime after midnight and my third-grade brain concluded that my mom must have snapped the photo after arranging the gifts herself. I calmly told my mom the gig was up and she cried.
We’ve enjoyed establishing our own holiday traditions, as parents of three little ones. Each Christmas we strive to honor the season as a celebration of the birth of Jesus, but we’ve also incorporated the magic of Santa. This year our oldest turned 8 and I wondered about his level of confidence in that jolly old man, as we rounded Thanksgiving and started down the road to December 25th. He’d asked a few questions here and there, which led me to believe he was more of a “social believer.” So, rather than give him the chance to figure it out, I planned to be proactive by coming up with a fun way to include him in this secret of the season without killing his Christmas spirit.
I had recently read an article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/a-lovely-non-traumatizing-way-to-break-the-news) about inducting your children into the “Santa family,” by explaining to them that Santa is not just one person, but all those who give generously and joyfully at Christmas. It was a sweet and soft explanation — one I knew our son would enjoy as he’d already been labeling his gifts to younger siblings, “From Santa.”
My husband and I talked it over and decided this was the year to make our son a “Santa.” The plan was for me to take our firstborn out on a date and read him the speech I’d found online. Everything was going according to plan… and then we got to the restaurant.
To Reveal or Not Reveal… The Secret of Santa
As excited as I was to bring my son into the secret and invite him to be an individual part of the magic, there was a slight feeling of uneasiness holding me back from immediately jumping into the conversation. We ordered our food and started chatting about school and his friends. After the waiter brought our check, I casually asked our son if his buddies from school believed in Santa. He smiled and said many did, but a few had tried to convince him that it was all made up. I asked what he said when “the unbelievers” attempted to convert him. Without hesitation, he stated, “I told them, ‘We’ll just see how many presents you get on Christmas then.’” He relayed his response with such confidence, I was almost shocked. Apparently, my son not only still believed in Santa Claus, but he was willing to stand up for the bearded saint on the playground.
I immediately began to back-peddle through the conversation I had practiced in my head all day. This was clearly not the time. He was not nearly as unsure as I thought he was. My reveal and invitation would come as a shock, not flattery.
We paid for our food and began the drive home. When we walked into the house, I gave my husband a quick and subtle “didn’t happen” as he began to ask our son about the date. He nodded that he got the hint and moved the conversation to bedtime prep. As I helped my 8-year-old get into his jammies and straighten out his pillows, I realized how relieved I was that our Santa conversation never happened.
The Sweet Innocence of the Season
This Christmas season was lovely and knowing it was probably my son’s last year of believing in Santa made me treasure each magical moment a bit more. I’m grateful to have had one more year of him listening for the sound of hooves on the roof. One more year of him arranging the cookies and milk and carrots. One more year of him writing a letter to the North Pole.
There are so many ways he’s grown from last Christmas to this one. He is more generous and empathetic toward others. He is more creative and confident. His abilities on the soccer field and in the classroom have improved by leaps and bounds. Admittedly, his growth has been accompanied by a loss of innocence. He has also encountered bullies and been treated unfairly. He’s seen a bit more of the world’s ugliness and, with his increased age and ability to understand things, has had to process the harshness he’s witnessed.
I don’t want our son to stay little. I love getting to know the young man he is growing into. But, I do want to protect his remaining innocence as long as possible. There is so much he doesn’t know. So many difficult “mom and me” conversations in our future. I’m so thankful to have had one more Christmas with “my little boy,” whose eyes lit up when he unwrapped his gift from Santa.
Maybe I can get one more year. Maybe.
Get in touch with Amber at: www.heryeslegacy.com