Today I’d like you to meet my friend, Debra Kristi, a writer and avid reader who’s never as happy as she is when she’s got a chai latte in one hand and a great book in the other.
Today Debra’s talking about a rite of passage many of us with kids have faced or will face: the reality that Ol’ Saint Nick, beloved by so many of our children, is indeed more myth and legend than fact.
“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening…”
…Ah, yes. That time of year has crept up on us all too quickly. I totally get into it and you’ve caught me in the swing of things – pulling out the holiday decorations and prancing about to holiday music as I hang lights and place ornaments just right.
But this holiday will be a little different. This year brings a special task for the husband and me. Something new. And we aren’t looking forward to it. This year we’re going to break the news to our eldest regarding the Big Guy in Red…the Man with the Reindeer…the CEO of Presents, Inc…
You see, my son has asked me on four separate occasions if Santa Claus is real. I’ve taken that as a sign it’s time to come clean. But also the sign he’s ready for the truth. Unfortunately, he has always chosen to bring up the topic in the car…with his five-year-old sister sitting right next to him. Not the ideal time to break the news.
So, we’re about to go through the rite of passage that most parents and children experience. We’ll explain the origins of St. Nicholas and how the stories of Santa Claus are still important by bringing special meaning to the holidays. Of course, once the reindeer’s out of the bag, we’ll need to give the lowdown on Santa’s friends – the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. Yep, the holy trinity for kids will take on new meaning for our boy this year.
With this milestone, a chapter in the Book of Childhood Innocence will come to an end. For a lot of kids, they take the news with an air of grace and bravery. I hope that’s the case with our son. He’s already asked “the question,” so perhaps deep down he knows the truth. He’s shared stories of friends who have caught their parents stocking the tree, and professes to have even walked in on me!
I could spend time analyzing what to do or how to handle this from a clinical standpoint. Should we tell him? Should we let him discover the truth on his own? If you read through parenting message boards, you’ll see this can actually be a polarizing subject with strong opinions from both sides. The way I see it, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Every kid is different. Do what you think is right for yours.
Truth is, I don’t actually remember my parents telling me Santa isn’t real. But my husband has a very clear memory of having the discussion with his mother. He remembers starting to question why Santa always signed his name with the exact same handwriting as his mom. She finally had to fess up, which she did in much the same way we intend to do – explaining how the spirit of Santa is important even if he isn’t a real person.
In a way, it doesn’t really matter if our son suspects the truth. What matters is that he is young at heart and wants more than anything to believe there’s magic in this world. Not pull-a-rabbit-out-your-hat magic. Real magic. The belief that special things exist beyond the ordinary and don’t need explanation. Special things that bring joy and inspiration.
Even after we have “the talk” we want him to continue believing. Sure, it sucks to learn Santa and his friends live only in spirit, but there is no reason on earth for him – or anyone – to not find real magic in other things. Life is too short not to believe.
You know, I’ll probably be the one who gets teary-eyed talking to our son. But I do take a little comfort in our decision to not share the news until after Christmas. No sense in denying him one more year thinking the big guy might be real, right?
Have you had to break the news about Santa to a child? How did it go?