For those of us who decided to participate in the childhood legendary creatures stuff (Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, etc.) there comes the bittersweet day that your child learns the truth behind the myths. How this goes depends a lot on what you told them to begin with and how you handled the questions as they came up. This year was the year my 5th grader learned about Santa Claus.
My kids have always been a bit on the precocious side. The questions actually started much earlier than I anticipated and when confronted with the, “Mommy? Why does/how does Santa…?” I resorted to that tried and true tactic of parenthood, turning the question back on them. “Why do you think…?”
So far this tactic has worked. Sometimes with hysterically funny answers and sometimes with amazingly perceptive analyses that are far beyond their years. For example, the year my children noticed that the Santa pictures don’t always depict the same guy and wanted to know why, they came up with the theory that all the real looking Santas are related and the others are just guys who the spirit of Santa comes to and they just want to spread the joy. This has turned into an annual game of trying to figure out whether the Santa is a brother, cousin, uncle, etc. of the real Santa or just someone who really loves Christmas and wants kids to love it too. Another year, they wanted to know why they only get 3 Santa gifts when other kids get 1 or more, and some kids get none even when they believe in Santa. The boys gave it some thought and decided that it must be because moms and dads help Santa and since Santa doesn’t have any means of income – the number and type of presents that Santa brings must be tied to what a parent can afford.
Each realization has been termed one of the “Secrets of Santa” and they understood that further “Secrets” would be revealed as they got older. For my oldest, the final secret reveal was this year.
About two weekends ago, I was enjoying my coffee and working on the grocery list when he walked into the dining room and said, “Mom, we gotta talk.” I put down my pen and indicated he should continue.
“Don’t worry about Nate,” he said. “I turned on the TV in the playroom so he’s occupied.”
“It’s about Santa Claus. I think I know the final secret. There’s no actual dude, is there?”
“Well, what do you think?”
“You always say that.” He sighed and started again, really quick like he was going to lose his nerve, “I think he existed once, I mean, like the St. Nick guy, but there’s no North Pole and all that. It’s the spirit that lives on, isn’t it?”
“Sounds like you’ve thought about this.”
“Well, yeah. I know that you and Daddy get the spirit of Santa and I thought you just helped him, but if he isn’t real, then what it means is that the spirit turns you and Daddy into Santa Claus, right?”
“Well, what do you…”
“I think you and Daddy are Santa Claus for us, and my friends’ parents become their Santa Claus, and when I grow up and have kids I’ll be their Santa Claus. I’m right, aren’t I?”
A part of me wanted to say no and reverse time to the days when he was wide eyed with the promise of magic and wonder. Another part of me loved his perception and calm acceptance. So I responded honestly. “Yes. Are you okay with this?”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be? I think it’s cool and now I can help you and Daddy keep it going for Nate.”
And with that he gave me a hug and left the room to go outside with our puppy. I was glad he went on with life so matter of fact, but for me it’s sort of bittersweet that he knows for sure. At first I worried that he would enlighten his brother but he hasn’t. If anything, he is as into keeping the spirit going as his father and I are. Oliver will turn 11 in a few months and this is just one of many signs that he is starting that transition from a little boy to a young man. As his mother, I miss the baby he once was but I love watching him turn into the man he will become.
Another item in the “upside” column is that I have another person to help move that blasted “Elf on the Shelf” to another perch on a daily basis.
From my home to yours, we wish a Merry Christmas to all who celebrate and Happy Holidays to those who don’t.
Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing (www.secondwindpublishing.com) or Amazon.com.