The Santa Quandary
This will undoubtedly be my ten year-old daughter’s last year as a believer in the fat man in red. She’s already informed me that apart from her usual letter to Santa, she’s written him a secret letter, just in case her friends at school are right and Santa is, in fact, a big sham perpetrated by her parents.
“You think Santa doesn’t know what you’re up to?” I asked her.
But she wasn’t buying it.
Already, she’s decided that the Tooth Fairy is bogus, the Easter Bunny is “SO obviously” her mom and dad, and don’t even get me started on leprechauns and St. Patrick’s day. This one I actually made up. Not the leprechauns part, of course, but the fact that chocolates fall out of leprechaun’s pockets as they scamper around the yard early morning on St. Paddy’s Day. Don’t ask me why I invented yet another fictional creature that I now have to masquerade as – dropping chocolates all over our grass at some ungodly hour every year on March 17th – but there you have it.
I have to be honest, at this point I’m not really all that sad to see Santa go.
I’m ready. Even if I have a 7 year-old who, technically, still believes. After my son, the oldest, stopped believing I could feel the whole Santa thing losing steam in our house. Like a pinhole in a balloon. I think we only kept up the ruse because the above mentioned middle child has always been an ardent believer in magic. While she hates church and has expressed skepticism and sometimes downright hostility to our Catholic faith, large bunny rabbits who hide eggs and fill baskets with chocolate, portly saints in Finnish snow suits, and tiny, red-bearded men in green have never bothered her.
And now that she’s getting ready to make the jump from magic to realism, there isn’t much there there, if you know what I mean? Especially since our youngest child has only a passing interest in Santa Claus.
She doesn’t care who delivers her presents as long as she gets some.
I know a lot of parents see this transition as a huge loss. I’m sure I’ll be one of them down the line. The Santa years have been magical. I’ve loved hiding my kids’ presents at a neighbors house, then waiting up until midnight on Christmas Eve to trudge over there and retrieve them. I’ve loved the unbridled delight on my children’s faces Christmas morning, the half-eaten cookies and footprints around the tree. One year a family of deer must have tramped through our yard and their hoof prints in the light snow became a holy site for our son. At least until the fifty degree weather melted them away.
When our kids were really little – as in, they’d swallow any fib we could concoct – we went so far as to convince our two eldest that they’d taken a ride on the Polar Express for Pete’s sake. My husband printed two golden tickets off of his computer and we tucked them into our children’s pajama pockets, stamped with the words “believe.”
But I’m ready to make the transition from Santa Claus, aka, it’s all about me, to Christ and the spirit of what Christmas is all about. I’m ready to start asking my children to give, and they’re ready, too. I can see it in how short their lists have become, compared to other years. I hear the change in the way prayers are said before meal time and bed. The intercessory prayers that used to be a staple – please, God, help me guess how many jellybeans are in the jar so that I can win that gift certificate to GameStop – have begun to fade away. Instead, their conversations with God have become increasingly peppered with moments of gratitude – “thank you for the love in my life, and for the Dairy Queen Blizzard mom bought us after our cross country meet. Thank you for a home.”
It is a glorious transformation – like watching the sun rise. Even our little agnostic has taken up the cause.
In that spirit, I’d like to say thank you, God, for Blessing me beyond reason with love, purpose and a sense of meaning. A life without those things is sterile and literal. Rational to the point of aimlessness.
And thank you for helping me believe. I know it hasn’t been easy.