My eight year old son Dreamer asked me: “Mami, is Santa real?”
If I was the Director of a movie, this would be when the music suddenly stops, we hear a screeching sound, and the screen freezes. Unfortunately this was not Hollywood; it was a conversation with my kids on our way home from school.
“What?” I managed to mutter.
I don’t know what to say when caught by surprise. My response tends to be a deer in headlight, watery eyed, stare.
Immediately Fearless (age six), interjected with a “yeeeesssss;” the sort of “yes” you hear from someone rolling back his eyes in disdain. As in, “how stupid can you be for even asking that question? Duh.”
But Dreamer continued: “Because Mark told me that Santa doesn’t exist. Is it true?”
Argh. That Mark. Couldn’t we have squeezed through this Christmas without questioning Santa? I was torn.
On the one hand, I don’t lie to my kids; not even white lies. I want them to trust me.
Imagine Dreamer debating the existence of Santa. Mark insists Santa does not exist, but Dreamer rebuts with all the confidence in the world because his MAMI confirmed Santa was real. They argue. Dreamer comes home, confides about his terrible day at school and the argument with his BFF only to be told that Mark was indeed correct.
Unforgivable. Right now I am Dreamer’s moral compass and I cannot fail him.
On the other hand last time Dreamer realized an apple did not have magical powers (you can read about that here), he was shattered. He is still innocent enough to believe, and so is his little brother Fearless.
In truth, I am okay with Dreamer finding out the truth about Santa. He is eight and had plenty of fantasy in his life. I was around eight when my sister told me Santa was really my mom. I don’t remember details, but I do vividly remember that my cousin still believed and I was threatened to extraordinary torture if I spilled the beans. I was afraid and then jealous of my cousin who got to have another make believe Christmas.
I called my sister, and she had a vague recollection of shattering my Santa belief. Instead she told me these Santa stories:
Her son’s friend Luke was in the sixth grade and still believed in Santa. Or so everyone thought until the day she overheard them talking: “dude, why did you say you don’t believe in Santa? You get better gifts if you do!”
Or of her friend Liz, who asked my nephew to break the news to her 5th grader since she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
The stories cracked me up and made me smile. But as a parent, I want to hold on to Santa. Is that weird?
Losing Santa means my boys are growing, and the world I created for them has become too small. Friends, television, and coaches compete with me for influence. I do understand this is healthy and I will not raise mama’s boys. Though I am willing and able to let go … it doesn’t mean I do so without a tinge of nostalgia.
I had a feeling this was our last year with Santa and so we upped the ante with the Elf magic. I wanted to make the imaginary part of the holidays especially delightful, compensating for my complete lack of baking, crafting and decorating skills. My house is no winter wonderland … but our elves? They rock!
In case you don’t know what I am talking about here is the deal with the Elf Magic. Every December, Santa sends two elves to our house to spread the holiday cheer. But while we sleep, the elves magically come to life and do mischief around the house. They cause all kinds of ruckus:
Dudley and Faulkner have appeared every December for the last three years. Then on the 24th they head back to the North Pole to help Santa deliver gifts around the world.
Every morning the boys wake up and run to see what mischief the elves have been up to. It’s a hint of Christmas magic, it’s delightful, and given our conversation yesterday it probably won’t last past the 24th.
And once Santa goes, so do the tooth fairy, elves, and Easter rabbit. Out of all these, I am not ready to let go of the tooth fairy. Santa is cultural, but every kid, regardless of their color, country or religion goes through this crooked smile phase:
In my family, the tooth fairy visits us. To Fearless this is almost as exciting as Santa because he’s only lost two teeth and his brother has lost many. Each time Dreamer loses a tooth, Fearless celebrates, gives him presents and draws him pictures.
Fearless checks for loose teeth constantly. I am guessing losing a tooth means growing up and being more like his big brother. He can’t wait for his next tooth to fall out. What if that is gone with the illusion of Santa? Wouldn’t that be sad?
So my answer to Dreamer’s question in the car was pathetic. I panicked and I didn’t want to ruin Santa for Fearless. I said: “I think Santa exists, but I also believe in many things I can’t prove.”
Not only did I tell Dreamer that Santa exists but I also told him it doesn’t matter if no one else but him believes it. If he believes it, it’s true.
The intention was good, I meant to teach that just because other people don’t think like you doesn’t mean you are wrong. But the problem here is that Dreamer only believes in Santa because I have led him to believe that Santa exists. I am not sure I am okay with that.
So if the car scene is replayed and Dreamer asks me again, I will be ready to tell him the truth and hope that he doesn’t ruin it for his little brother. At least until the tooth fairy has a chance to visit a couple more times. However, I will challenge him to catch the sock eater who lives in our dryer. No one can tell this Mami he doesn’t exist.
Do you remember when you found out Santa wasn’t real? At what age and how did you break the news to your children?