This time of year, when people know you have kids who aren’t of the littlest variety, the one question on the tip of every tongue is:
“Does he/she still believe?”
I’m not sure what the over/under is on the age at which “most” kids make the connection between all of those Amazon boxes arriving and the corresponding size of the Santa pile under the tree. When they realize that collections for less fortunate families imply that Santa doesn’t necessarily grace everyone with a similar bounty of holiday delights.
My daughter was in 6th grade when she put two and two together. She had been watching the Ellen show and they were doing 12 Days of Giveaways and there was a particularly sad story of a deserving family for whom there would be no Christmas without some outside intervention.
She kept her revelation to herself until we were on our way into BJ’s Warehouse Club. I still remember it vividly despite it being four years ago.
As we walked across the parking lot I asked some random question about what she thought Santa would do this year and she looked at me with anger in her eyes and said:
“I think we both know Santa doesn’t bring the presents.”
To which I responded (quite eloquently):
“(Silent open-mouthed stare) – Um, what do you want me to say here?”
Way to rock a seminal moment, Mom.
This also happened to be the first Christmas after her Dad and I had separated, and she was NOT HAPPY about the way Christmas was panning out this year.
“I can’t believe you LIED TO ME like that all of those years.”
“Christmas will NEVER be fun EVER again.”
And then later…after thinking about it a bit:
“The Tooth Fairy, too?”
“AND THE EASTER BUNNY?!?!?”
I reassured, I soothed. Of course it would still be fun. All of the things that made Christmas so Christmas-y were still going to happen.
The stories and magic could still happen, even if you didn’t quite interpret them as literally as you once did.
She was adamant that she WOULD NOT ruin the secret for her little brother. She didn’t want him to be as unhappy as she was. And for this I was thankful.
I was 12 when my brother (who I believe was 6) filled me in. Nothing like a tiny kid looking at his much older sibling and shaking his little head…”Dude, really?”
After Christmas morning had come and gone I asked her, “Was it still fun?” and she agreed that yes, it had been pretty much the same amount of fun as always.
She likes being in on the behind-the-scenes stuff. When Santa had to hide a present and wanted help “accidentally” finding it, “he” enlisted her assistance. She goes along with the “better get to bed so we don’t scare him off” ruse.
And every year I ask her:
“Do you think he knows?”
And she says:
“I don’t think so.”
The boy is now in 7th grade and shows no sign of giving up the ghost on Santa. He’s not the kind of guy to question a good thing and I anticipate that we could spend many many years continuing this way.
If Santa brought Brussels sprouts and nail clippers, he’d be quick to find a chink in the story and debunk the whole thing. But as long as it’s toys and video games and candy, I can’t imagine he’ll put much effort into pulling back the curtain.
And people ask me:
“Does he still believe? He can’t possibly, can he?”
And I say:
“Probably not, but he’ll never admit it and I’m not going to be the one to clarify.”
Two can play that game, and I’d rather hold onto some little piece of magic than be the one that blew the last bits of it away.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.