Remember the story of the sweet little doe-eyed, cheerio-mouthed boy who asked “Mommy, is Santa real?” and loved the fat man, still, upon learning the truth?
Fast forward 4 years and sweet little boy is a little less sweet, generally speaking, but still full of curiosity, imagination and energy. Now he has a little sister and little sister will be three the year our story takes place.
Mommy works for the biggest toy company in the world and is also chair of the committee that organizes the company’s children’s Christmas party. (A fun gig, actually. The first couple of years I did it, our Santa arrived drunk, so you might understand why I asked my husband to take over the year I met him!)
As the Christmas party approaches, little man pulls mommy aside for a serious chat.
“Mommy, do you remember what you told me about Santa?” he asked, shuffling his feet a little and definitely not looking me in the eye. That’s usually a sign of lying and guilt – he was 7, almost 8! – but I couldn’t figure where those would enter here.
“Of course honey,” I said, still proud for sticking to my guns about not lying to my kids about Santa.
“Well, umm,” He was hedging.
I couldn’t figure it out; did he need me to tell him it was all a big hoax and Santa was actually real? Shoot, I didn’t think I could do that, sorry. I was gearing up to tell him that when he floored me.
“Um, I was hoping, maybe, um, you could, maybe, not tell sister?”
“What?” I spluttered. Not because I was upset or angry, but stunned! Not tell her?
“What do you mean, bud, not tell her? Like, not tell her the truth?” I asked.
“Um yeah, that” he said. He still wouldn’t look at me and when it was combined with his adorable little, turned away face and the shuffling feet – I couldn’t help but reach out and hug him and tell him how proud I was of him. He grinned.
“So… you’ll do it?” he asked expectantly.
“No, sweetie, I’m sorry, I can’t” Oh, he was crestfallen.
“Oh please, mom,” he implored, “don’t spoil it for her!”
“When you told me the truth, it took all the magic out of Christmas. The other kids were dreaming about what Santa would bring and I couldn’t. I knew he wasn’t real, that it was just you.”
Okay, if I thought I was floored with the first part of the request, I was knocked over by that one. I suddenly felt terrible. The price of my pride in my integrity cost my child a piece of innocence. Damn. But could I just give in and lie to my daughter? Nope. Instead, I made my son a deal.
We agreed that I couldn’t break my promise to myself not to lie to them about this (I couldn’t get beyond that part, sorry). So, to keep the magic for my daughter, the little man said he would field any questions that came up about Santa. That way, I wouldn’t be lying (technicality), but he’d get his wish for her to grow up believing.
It was only this year my daughter finally consented to accept her knowledge that Santa is not “real”. When I told them I was writing this, I asked her which state of mind would she have preferred: knowing or not knowing.
Definitely not knowing, she said.
Her big brother did an awesome job keeping the magic alive for her, telling her stories about the spirit of giving and magic of Kris Kringle, getting her excited counting down the days, writing letters to the North Pole, making lists, setting out cookies, milk and carrots. One year, they even put out some special reindeer food he had bought with his own money at a craft show.
He’s her hero these days. As it should be. 🙂