My new year started out with a sound every parent dreads: the sound of their child growing up. My youngest walked into the room and announced “Santa isn’t real.” This came from the mouth of a 3.5 year old – he’s the last one, my last baby ever and there is something poignant about the last time you do something with your last baby. It makes the finality of babydom so real. But figuring out about Santa? At 3.5 without help from his siblings? What is the world coming to? Thank goodness cousin Lars was there. “That’s just crazy talk” he ended the startled silence.
Let me just set a few things straight here. As someone not a fan of the whole commercialism connected to the holidays, I really don’t have a problem with my kids not buying into the whole Santa Claus thing. However, when a child blurts this statement, a parent isn’t just witnessing a cognitive growth ring. The parent is also witnessing the end of a chapter of childhood – one where magic is possible. And that is what broke my heart the most.
I also wondered how the heck this had happened. I immediately looked at his 9 year old brother with that look. You know the one. Every parent quickly masters that look. “Wasn’t me. No idea what he’s talking about.” There is one thing I give my oldest credit for – he does not lie. Plus, he figured out the whole thing at 5 so perhaps there is some genetic predisposition for sniffing out parental fibs???
I decided to ask for more information when a better time arose. Namely one where the 6 year old major believer was not present. The moment presented itself a few days later.
According to my son, Santa couldn’t be real because when we saw him (on December 8th at a school function) there had been no snow on the ground. And how could he be real since he’s supposed to have snow and a sleigh and stuff?
Ah, crisis not averted but at least made less fuzzy.
I dried his tears and whispered something about Santa’s magic and got him distracted with something else. But my mind has come back to this time and again.
As a parent, I am torn by the need to prepare my children for the realities of life and yet wanting to protect them from those same realities. Why can’t there be just a little bit of magic in their lives – for forever? I want them to always have those magical moments when the sun peaks through the clouds just when they need a ray of sunshine the most. I want them to catch snowflakes on their tongues and catch the giggles as well – when they’re grey-haired and wrinkled. I want them to feel the magic of their newborn babe’s breath in the crease of their neck. I want them to always believe in the magic of life and the gift of being given one more day to share their lives with the people they love.
Please Santa Claus, be real for a few more years?