Driving home from school the other day with my kids, who are nine and ten, I made a mention of Santa Claus. I was trying to figure out if they still believe in jolly old Saint Nick, as I would like them to hold on to that magical idea for as long as possible. However, I also remembered that in 4th grade, lots of kids began to explain to those of us that still believed in Santa that he just wasn’t real. So, in order to give my children the Christmas experience they crave, I had to do some research. “What do you want from Santa this year?” I asked. “Oh mom, come on, I believe in my heart. But not in Santa. I mean, I know he exists, but I also know you do the work for him,” my 10-year-old said. (I liked this answer, I work my butt off and it made me sit a little taller getting recognized for my Santa Claus prowess.) “Oh.” I said. “Okay. So do you think Snowflake [the elf on the shelf] is gonna visit this year?” I asked, thinking, Yeah! One less thing I have to do every night, move that little elf! “Umm Mom, Spencer may think Santa is a silly idea but I know, elves are real.” My 9-year-old was serious as a heart attack, and I could even see a little water in his eyes as he fought back tears. My heart began to break, because at that moment I came to two realizations: that my babies were not babies anymore, and also that one of them wasn’t ready to stop being my baby.
Young children make the magic of Christmas come to life. Believing in Santa, flying reindeer and elves brings out the child in all of us. Eventually though, our children grow, and when they do, their belief in jolly fat men who bring gifts begins to evaporate. And it can be heartbreaking. Not only for us, but for them, too. Growing up is something we can’t stop, and while most of it makes children try to keep up with the cool older kids, the magic of Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy is that they make kids want to stay kids. And no matter how amazing the little humans they turn out to be are, or how fun it can be to interact with them like small adults, we all have a piece of us that wants to hold on to our innocent babies as long as we can.
So I have decided that I am going to continue with the Santa charade. And the Elf. Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy — name a gift-giving fictional character and I will buy into it, if it keeps my kids wide-eyed innocents a moment longer. Even if they know the truth, their willingness to keep it going works for me. Taking Santa out of the Christmas equation may lessen the work load, but the fun of the fantasy is worth the extra work. I’ll take it as long as we are all willing to play the game.