December 20, 2013
This is the question no parent wants to hear. Probably second only to “Where do babies come from?” The magic of childhood, which includes the magic of Christmas, can be over way too soon. As parent, I wanted to preserve my girls’ childhood for as long as possible knowing they had forever to be adults.
I know parents who took the approach of ‘not wanting to lie to their children’ or believing ‘they are very mature for their age and need to know the truth’. It is not my style to critique others’ parenting preferences. I just happened to have a different perspective and plan for raising my girls.
If you are a parent who has perpetuated the magic of Santa and Christmas for as long as possible, you may wonder when and how will it end. “What will I say when they ask me? I don’t want to lie to them. I don’t want them to think I’ve lied all these years. What will I do???” (Cue ‘deer in headlights’ expression) While I cannot predict when the time will come and what is best for you and your children, I can share how it went down in my home.
When they were young, we went full in. Cookies left out for Santa and bags of reindeer food; letters written to Santa and visits to see him (or maybe one of his helpers); and even our tradition of Santa Mouse. (Check the book out here if you’re curious) As they approached school age, I could see my oldest begin to wonder a bit. She would ask questions designed to figure out Santa’s logistics with her newfound intelligence and discerning mind. My reply was always, “What do you think?” She delighted in exploring all the possible ideas and solutions to the questions she had posed. I smiled, listened, and nodded.
There were times, I admit, I resorted to guerilla tactics such as, “If you don’t believe, he might not come! And you don’t want to test that do you??” This may have been evilness with a sacred purpose. Nothing would thwart my preservation of childhood.
At some point, it became clear their doubts were mounting. My pivotal moment came with the question “Mommy do you REALLY believe in Santa Claus?” Whew! I felt like I had dodged a bullet because to this question I could honestly say yes. As the conversation continued, I sensed an opportunity to introduce a new perspective.
It was beautiful to be able to honestly say to my girls that I do believe. I shared with them that the magic of Christmas I had felt as a little girl had evolved over time and never gone away. My understanding of Santa and Christmas magic had grown and changed, and yet I still believed.
I believe in the magic of the season, the gift of love and return of light that has been celebrated for thousands and thousands of years. There are miracles that I still see and experience without fail every single year. I also told them it was important to believe with all their heart, every year without fail, so they could stay open to the magic that would touch their hearts forever. And if they continued to keep the magic of Christmas alive in their hearts, Santa would no doubt keep coming to our house.
There were no more questions after that. They seemed satisfied and happy to continue to believe. It was a blessing for my heart to see my children easily transition into an evolved understanding of Santa and the magic of Christmas. This was just one of many perspectives on the world that I hoped they would inherit. In my heart, I never lied to them at all. We all believe and Santa still comes to our house every year…he just brings a little less.
Thank God! He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
~Unsigned editorial in response to the letter from eight year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, published September 21,1897.