I had just tucked her into bed a few minutes earlier. Carefully brushing her hair aside, I kissed her cheek and tucked the covers in on both sides. We said, “Goodnight. Happy dreams” – our usual nighttime send off, and I turned out the lights. She seemed deep in thought but it was getting late and I had some work to finish up.
No sooner had I logged in to my computer than I heard her coming down the stairs. She was quiet and her face was rather serious.
She approached me and asked, “Mom, is Santa real?”
How do I handle this so I don’t shatter what’s left of her fleeting childhood?
OK I know in the grand scheme of things this isn’t really a big deal. There are so many other things going on in the world that matter so much more. But right now, in this moment, it’s important to me BECAUSE it’s important to her.
A little history.
I had a wonderful childhood filled with special memories. And I’ve always said that if I can give my girls half of the happiness I experienced as a kid, then I know they’d have a great childhood, too. For me, Christmas was one of those magical times.
But she’s ten. She’s not a little girl anymore. Turns out it was one of her friends that spilled the beans. She wasn’t mean about it, but I think her friend was really surprised that my girl didn’t know THE TRUTH.
OK so she’s asked me the question. And it hung in the air in an uncomfortable silence. I smiled in a feeble effort to look unfazed, but my mind raced. What do I say? How do I handle this? Why can’t I channel the right words to ease the pain my little girl is clearly feeling at the thought that what she truly believes in her heart – what we have lead her to believe since day one – is not true? I instantly felt guilty for the whole thing.
To be honest, I can’t quite remember all of what I said. But it started with me turning it back on her with the standard, “Well, what do YOU think?”
Eventually, she asked if it was the parents who bought Christmas gifts. I answered her truthfully. But then we talked about Christmas not really being about gifts at all.
We talked about the spirit of Christmas and how maybe this is what Santa represents.
We talked about the magical feelings of excitement, anticipation, joy and wonder that are all part of the holiday season.
We talked about how wonderful it feels to give … not just receive.
And we discussed that while you can’t see love or happiness or joy, it doesn’t mean they aren’t real.
In the end, I told her that I believed in Santa and I hoped she did too.
And Lord help me, I even pulled up a copy of the editor’s response to Virginia from way back in 1897.
I told her that parents help to bring about some of the magic that is the Christmas season. We try, but often, grownups get so caught up in getting their kids the latest, greatest, most expensive whatevers that it gets out of control. We don’t intentionally overspend. But we do.
So I felt sort of hypocritical. Here I was talking about magic and wonder and the spirit of giving. And yet I’m the one that wants to get our girls more, more, more.
And then my girl surprised me. The tears in her eyes were no longer sadness. Instead, they were tears of gratitude.
She said, “Thanks for making my childhood so magical.”
I swear to you I’m not making this up. I shook my head as if to clear my ears figuring I hadn’t heard her right. “What did you say?”
“Thanks for making my childhood so magical.”
You’re welcome, sweet girl. You’re welcome.