This (or close to it) will run in the Thursday, December 27 issue of the Alameda Sun. Hope you all have a very merry and a happy.
Gone Santa Baby Gone
My 10-year-old, Natasha, recently asked the inevitable question most 10 year olds ask at this time of year: “Is Santa real?”
I say most 10 year olds, because her 12-year-old twin sisters have never asked about the reality of Santa. In fact, I am not sure just what they believe about Jolly Old St. Nick. And I don’t want to know.
For Natasha, knowing the truth was incredibly important. She was always the one to wonder about the sensibility of Santa’s worldwide whirlwind trip. She is my rational child. In the past, when she was still unwilling to see the truth of the matter, I could distract her with a “How do you think he does it?” She would provide the vivid, convoluted details she concocted and that would be the end of it. Until now.
This year, it all came to a head as she was enjoying dinner with a girlfriend and her family when the subject of Christmas and Santa came up. The mom (a dear friend of mine who assumed Tasha knew the truth—I don’t hold this against her) turned to the girls, winked and pressed her finger to her lips conspiratorially, as the youngest boy clamored on about Santa and presents. This was a tip-off for my kid, and she came home to ask The Question. I took the coward’s way out by replying, “Ask your father.” She did what she was told and her father replied with the “Santa is a symbol for the magic of Christmas” line of reasoning that she ultimately accepted. I just didn’t want to be the one to say it out loud.
Telling the kids about Santa, especially the youngest, opened up a Pandora’s box for me: Do the others have to know? And, what happens now? Do I have to wrap all the presents? (Santa never wrapped his.) What about when I can’t get the exact present? No more blaming it on Santa and the elves, or, on the kids for not writing the letter to tell Santa what they really wanted. No more Christmas cookies to put out Christmas Eve. No more carrots for the reindeer to eat on the front lawn. No more “Santa only comes when you are asleep” inducements to get them to bed. See what I mean? What happens now? Santa may be a symbol for the magic, but when my kids stop believing, the magic gets lost for me. How do I get it back?
It certainly marks the end of an era for both of us. For Natasha, it seems she’s just that much older, that much wiser to the ways of the world, and, ultimately, the lies parents tell. It’s a coming of age that I wanted no part of. When I first discovered the truth about Santa at just about her age, I remember thinking, “Well, of course! Now it all makes sense!” I don’t remember being disappointed, but I also remember thinking it best to keep my discovery quiet. I had a younger sister and I didn’t want to blow it for her. I also didn’t want to let on to my parents that I knew. I knew the change had occurred, but I just couldn’t say it out loud.
A few weeks ago, Natasha came home from her father’s house and said: “I know the truth about the Tooth Fairy, Mom. Dad gave it away when he woke me up last night as he lifted my head to put money under my pillow,” she said, a bit exasperated at her father’s folly. It took about two seconds for the next logical step—“so, that means there’s no Easter Bunny, either, right?” It was only a matter of time before the whole Santa thing erupted.
As Natasha and I talked about it, I tried to disguise the petulance I was feeling. “Well, now I don’t have to worry about giving you Easter baskets anymore,” I said, working that bright side. “And, I don’t have to buy extra presents at Christmas—ones marked from me and then the ones from Santa….” My voice trailed off a bit.
Natasha, always rational and a quick thinker, jumped in here. “Mom, we never had this conversation. Wipe it from your memory. I still believe in everything.”
If only it were that easy.