My post today isn’t going to be a gift list or guide. Sorry in advance, although it IS slightly gifting related.
Before you continue reading any further, make sure there are only adults present–no children (or inner children) peeking behind you or reading over your shoulder. There are some “holiday spoilers” in this post, if you catch my drift. Alright, now that you’ve done that, I can share the rest of this with you.
A couple weeks ago–it was during Hurricane Sandy–my family and I were in close quarters. It’s not that our house is small, it’s not by New York City standards, but we were all locked inside together for about 72 hours…straight. As can happen when cabin fever sets in, we started to clean. My son and my husband got to work in my sons room–no easy feat–this is when my husbands OCD works in our favor. Things get sorted, arranged and organized. Treasured artifacts are separated from junk and in the midst of this, they came across a candle that was held in–don’t judge–a beer bottle. This artifact dates back to a few Christmases ago, because in our house we don’t leave milk and cookies for Santa. We always figured Santa gets tons of that, so every year we give him beer and chocolate pudding pie plucked from our Christmas Eve festivities. So one Christmas morning, my son (then seven) basking in sentimentality and an excessive haul, decided he wanted to keep the bottle Santa left behind and I couldn’t think of how that would be appropriate unless…of course, put a candle in it!!! Call it an error in parental judgement, whatever. There it sat on his desk for two years.
As my son (now nine) was explaining this story to my husband while they were cleaning, he made one other observation clearly occupying his brain space for a while: “did you know you and Santa have the same handwriting.” I guess my husband got him distracted, because it did not come up again until later that evening when we were all sitting down for dinner and he posed the same observation as more of a question. My daughter, husband and I all stumbled over what to say… And I think I said something like: “that’s so funny, I thought the same thing about my Dad and the Easter Bunny” (I really did). As we all tried to distract him, he eventually asked the dreaded question: Is Santa real? My first reaction was to ask if he thought Santa was real, but even his answer of “yes” was more of a question until he finally had the horrific realization that Santa, as he had understood him, likely was not. And he cried. And my daughter cried–for him. And I tried not to cry and my husband and I consoled them and held them and loved them.
And when they were ok, I went upstairs to my bathroom, closed the door and sobbed.
There are moments you share with your child that the baby books tell you to record, that you know will be rites of passage and may even have you mourning a bit. No one prepares you for this one, or the last tooth they will ever lose, or the last time they will ride a school bus. I have two beautiful, happy, healthy children who have brought me more joy in the 12 years since their birth (my daughter turned 12 today in fact) than I’ve experienced in my almost four decades on earth. It’s more than I ever thought possible, if I had planned or tried to dictate what that love would or should be, I would have short-changed it for all of us. On the other side of that all-consuming, heart-swelling love is the little heart breaks you will feel as they move from stage to stage and once they have made a realization like this one, there is no going back.
This Christmas will be a bit bitter sweet. I won’t need to hide wrapping paper and stay up with my husband until everyone is asleep to ensure nobody wakes up as we are placing the gifts and leaving traces of Santa, reindeer and elves throughout the house. We won’t sneak up to his door and try to shake bells outside and share a knowing glance when he says in the morning “I heard sleigh bells last night!” He is my youngest, my baby, there is no younger child to maintain the Santa dance for. That part of parenthood is over for me and it was magical, fantastic and full of such joy. I know there will be (and are) other joys.
The other thing that happens as one stage ends, is that another begins. We can travel on Christmas, for example, and make other moments and memories. And the catch is that stage can’t start until the other stage is complete. So as this holiday season gets underway I am wistful, a little sad and also excited to see what is next.
“Holding on is believing there’s only a past. Letting go is knowing there is a future.” – Daphne Rose Kingma
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7 thoughts on “The Santa Dance”
This is beautiful!
Although my children are a bit older than yours (16 and 13), we are only two years beyond you on this transition. Both of them hung on to Santa until 6th grade (age 11), denying or suppressing when confronted with evidence to the contrary. In 6th grade, my older daughter found out at the school bus stop because she overhead moms talking about it. She was genuinely depressed that season. She has since joyfully embraced the Santa myth and celebrates Christmas with enthusiasm and happiness. Two years ago, I couldn’t believe my younger son still believed. I worried that his friends and classmates would make fun of him. My husband and I decided to break the news to him to spare him embarrassment. At dinner one night, we gently told him the truth. He burst into tears. I felt horrible. Horrible! And I still wonder about the pros and cons of the Santa myth. It does lend magic to the holiday, but the truth leads to such a sense of betrayal. Christmas was bittersweet that year. And indeed, we ended up taking a year off last year – taking a wonderful sailing trip in the British Virgin Islands, but it didn’t feel like Christmas. We all agreed we wanted Christmas at home this year. So, this year we will remake Christmas with full awareness of the magic of Santa, revisiting our old traditions and
creating some new traditions for our maturing family.
Thanks so much for sharing your story and experience. I know we will all continue to find the magic and joy in the holiday season. A trip to the Virgin Islands sound pretty good too 🙂