Santa died and it totally sucked.
The day of Santa’s death started out like a normal Sunday. We were in the beautiful space between basketball and baseball season where there are a small handful of days without practices and games. We invited family over and had a lazy day spending time together. But, while playing basketball in the driveway with his father and his uncle, my oldest saw an opportunity and took it.
The first one to die was the Tooth Fairy.
Logic did that poor fairy in. My son and some of his friends had talked at school and compared notes about the Tooth Fairy. The numbers didn’t add up. Some kids got $1. Some kids got $2. Some kids got $5. Some kids got $10. So, he asked for confirmation that the Tooth Fairy was “just the parents doing it.”
He’s 11 1/2 and they were completely caught off guard for such a conversation in the middle of a driveway basketball game. So, they told him the truth.
It quickly unraveled from there.
A few hours later, as we all were settling into bed, my oldest seized another opportunity. He stood at the foot of my bed as I snuggled under the covers. I was feeling safe and cozy in my fuzzy socks and my warm comforter. He took advantage of the quiet, peaceful moment and said
“So…if the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, how can any of it be real? Has it all been a lie?”
I’d feared this moment since the very first time we talked about Santa with this child. I had practiced my response over and over in my head. I had bookmarked great articles and saved suggested letters and activities to help tell the children the truth. It was going to be perfect!
As soon as the question left his lips, I could feel an uncomfortable smile creeping across my face. Damn it! Why do I have to smile and giggle when I’m uncomfortable?
“Mom!!!!! You are the worst liar!!”
We went to his room and laid down side by side in his bed where I told him everything. By the end of it, I was crying and he had tears in his eyes. To say the truth broke his heart would be an understatement. With every question I answered, I could see him slipping further away from the childhood version of him.
We cried together and every few days since then he has asked another question about it all as he tries to fit this new information into his understanding of the world. Now, I know Santa didn’t really die and Christmas is all about magic and magic is in our hearts and all that happy stuff. But, in that moment, when my oldest looked at me and asked
“Has it all been a lie?”, if felt like a death.
While I am excited to have him take on some of the magic by helping keep Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and all of their friends alive for his brother, I find that he and I are grieving.
Someone once told me that children are gifts we have for 18 years and then we have to set them free.
That was two years ago and I realized then that I was already halfway through my “gift.” I thought time was moving fast then but it was nothing compared to how quickly it is moving now. Perhaps more so now in his death than when he was alive, Santa is reminding me of the magic of childhood and just how important it is to hold onto it for as long as we possibly can.
This week has marked the return of our family's favorite visitors: Max the Elf and Jolly the Reindeer. If you have children and enjoy stressing yourself out every night, you probably have similar visitors in your home this time of year. My good friend, Siri, has once again started reminding me every night around 9PM to "move the thing" (code for "get yourself out of bed and with ninja-like stealth, find somewhere different for Max and Jolly to hang out"). My yearly excel sheet is favorited on my computer again, complete with specific dates for when Max and Jolly will do fun things like leave snowmen donuts or make snowflake cut-outs or build a Christmas tree out of legos. And I have already found myself, on more than one occasion, threatening my children with statements like "Do you really want to be doing that in front of Max?" or "Max can totally see this behavior right now and he's probably going to tell Santa."
Do you know what else has made its return to our family's home this week? The magic of Christmas.
I know. Could I be any more hokey and cheesy?
It's true though. The first thing my children do each morning is look for Max and Jolly, smiling with relief when they see that they have safely returned from the North Pole. Christmas music is usually playing in the background at night and the boys rush to turn on the Christmas lights each afternoon. Last night my youngest even left a letter with some logistical questions about reindeer for Max and this morning he found Max's response. I think this is Max's 8th Christmas with us (as we resisted the thought of an elf at first) and his return each year helps illuminate just how much has changed in our family from year to year. His return also marks the return of many annual family traditions that I now cherish.
Max, Jolly and the idea of Santa bring a whole lot of joy to our lives this time of year.
If you know me or you've followed my blogs, you know that my oldest child is 11 years old now. He is perched on the fence between childhood and adolescence and when it comes to the magic of Christmas, he is firmly on the childhood side of the fence.
He still believes.
(Or, perhaps he is just an amazing actor and is afraid that he won't get presents on Christmas morning if he questions it too much.)
As more and more of my oldest son's friends, some older and some younger, have found out the story behind Santa and the Elf, I have begun to wonder if I should tell him or wait until he asks me about it. Should I let him go to school and talk about it, text his friends about it and continue to believe so strongly just as he did when he was 5 years old? Should I protect him from the risk of being made fun of by his peers? Should I make sure that I am the one to tell him the truth versus hearing it from someone else? Should I let him in on the secret and find a way for him to participate in keeping the magic alive for his younger brother?
After thinking about it for a few days, I have decided that I am in no rush to force him over the fence. While I don't want kids at school or on his sports teams to make fun of him for still believing in these things, I also don't want to make a decision about his life based on the mean actions of some kids. Plus, telling him won't protect him from being teased as there will always be something that children can tease other children about. What other benefit is there to telling him right now? It brings him joy, wonder and keeps the world feeling safe and fun. Right now, I don't think this is a bad thing.
I am always saying that I wish I could put my kids into a protective bubble sometimes to shield them from the difficulties of our world. This magic of Christmas that Max, Jolly and Santa usher in each year is a bit like that protective bubble. So, at least for now, I'm going to enjoy the bubble and I'm going to let my 11 year old enjoy the magic of Christmas for a while longer - even if it does mean I have to fine tune my stealthy ninja skills.
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