Not long ago, we had the opportunity to catch up with some
old neighbors, a military family that had moved away. My daughter cried when
they left and still misses their three children.
So we were thrilled to learn they would be visiting town for
a few days and arranged for the kids to get together in our home. Not long
into the play date, one of the children was admiring a toy in my daughter's
room. I cheerily told her, "Santa brought that last year."
What happened next was one of those moments that go by in a
flash and you want back immediately, yet pass in a painful slow motion fashion you
are powerless to stop.
The 3-year-old boy looked up at me with skepticism. I
knew what was going to come out of his mouth before he said it and felt a pang
of panic. In my head I was pleading, "PLEASE don't do it!" And yet,
he could not help himself.
As if it was his duty to be the whistle blower and he exclaimed,
"Santa's not real!" in a tiny, exasperated voice.
I sucked in my breath and waited.
My daughter continued to play across the room, seemingly
oblivious to what was going down. She was in the zone, her back to all of us.
The 3-year-old’s mom rushed across the room and placed
her hand over his mouth. She shook her head vehemently and gave him a look,
trying to explain to him non-verbally why he should not continue.
He didn't get it, and looked at her confused, "But…"
he began. At which point she took him gently by the arm and walked him out of
the room to explain.
Phew, I thought. Dodged that bullet.
I have many wonderful childhood memories of Santa ... In the end, we decided we would play Santa, and there have been no regrets.
Then the 6-year-old girl who had originally noticed the
toy in question stomped her foot on my daughter’s bedroom floor, "Santa's
NOT real! He doesn't exist!"
Oh, for crying out loud.
Her mom called her out to the hallway to join the
conversation taking place with her brother. As she walked out of the room, she
looked at me with disdain. Clearly, in her mind, I was in the wrong.
I knew my daughter had not heard any of their comments. She
would have had a strong reaction, an emotional one. And I would have had some
explaining to do.
To be honest, my husband and I have been conflicted about
Santa from the start. We talked at length about whether or not to introduce the
tradition in our home. Neither of us liked the idea of lying to our child. He
has strong memories of the feeling of betrayal when he learned the truth.
I did not have a negative reaction when I found out. I have
many wonderful childhood memories of Santa. And I love what he represents: the
spirit of giving. In the end, we decided we would play Santa, and there have
been no regrets.
We know Santa's days in our home are numbered, however.
Whether our daughter figures it out on her own or is told by a peer, the magic
will come to an end. For now, we will continue to enjoy the tradition.
And maybe screen kids we invite over for play dates more