When Laylee and I went shopping for ballet shoes this fall, we found ourselves waiting in line behind 2 tween ballerinas being fitted for pointe shoes. Knowing how excited she is to one day dance like the big girls, I mentioned them to her later.
“Laylee. Did you see the ballerinas in there?”
“Do you really think they were REAL ballerinas?”
“Yeah,” I shrugged.
“Oh, I knew it! I knew ballerinas were real, just like FAIRIES!”
“Yes,” I thought, “And dentists and musicians. They’re all very real.”
This is Laylee. She has a crazy vivid imagination. She loves anything magical or mystical or fantastic. She was told quite suddenly two years ago that the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny weren’t real but a year later, she’d talked herself into believing again.
This week we had a talk about Santa.
I love Santa. I always have. My dad (picture above) is one of his special helpers. At times I have been employed as an elf. “The Ho-Ho-Ho Guy” is a big part of our Christmas celebration but definitely not the focal point. We enjoy encouraging the magic but try not to make direct claims about him. I tend to respond to questions with more questions.
“Do you think Santa’s real?”
“That’s a good question. What do you think?”
This year as the Christmas season draws near, my kids already have the fat man on the brain. Laylee told me she’s been thinking about it and she’s decided that the only way Santa could do all the magical things he does is if he were given special powers by God.
She came to this conclusion because Saint Nicholas was a good guy who loved Jesus and loved being kind and giving gifts to children. She figured God would want to reward someone like that and help him do an awesome job celebrating His son’s birthday so He allowed him to live forever and slurp himself down chimneys at supersonic speed.
There are a couple of things I like about this theory. As someone with a firm belief in God and Jesus Christ, I like that she knows where true power comes from. I also like that she knows what Christmas is really about and sees Santa as someone who just does a kick-butt job of celebrating it.
What I don’t like about this theory is that it puts God and Santa on the same roster. It leads to the question, “If Santa’s not real, then was all that stuff about religion an elaborate hoax too?”
I couldn’t let it stand. So I pulled my seven-year-old aside for a talk I’ve been dreading. And you know what? She left our discussion giddy to be initiated into the world of adults who spread joy, magic and love to others. Here's how it went down:
I asked her to help me give Wanda a bath and while we washed the baby, I brought up our earlier discussion about Saint Nick.
“You know what happened to Saint Nicholas, Laylee?”
“Like most people, he grew old and he died.”
She looked confused.
“Do you know how he got his power and continued to give gifts even after he was dead?”
She shook her head, wide-eyed.
“After he died, many people loved what he’d done so much and loved how his kindness reminded them of the Savior’s gifts that they all decided to make the magic of Saint Nick continue. Kind people all over the world are the real magic of Santa Claus. Isn’t that amazing? It's not just one person but a whole bunch of people working together!”
At this her eyes grew even bigger and she started to smile.
“So when kids want to know more about Santa and their parents decide they’re kind enough and old enough to help, they get invited into the group of grown up magic makers to bring fun and joy to other people. Are you ready to help me make the magic of Santa for your little brother and sister? Are you ready to be Santa with me?”
I was getting really worked up at this point, using my most confidential voice, my most excited face. And she was thrilled.
“Oh yes! I’m ready,” she whispered and then let out a little squeal.
I hugged her and promised that I loved her and I’d still make sure that Santa visited her as well. We then proceeded to have a serious discussion about how only a parent can decide if her child is ready to become a magic maker so Laylee was absolutely forbidden from spoiling the fun for other children until their parents decided they were fully ready to become part of the brotherhood.
I also reinforced that I didn’t want her to confuse fun people like Santa that we create using our own imaginations with the real Being who created us.
Of course the discussion was over-simplified and I’m sure we’ll fine tune it over the years but for this week it was enough. She seems to get it. And she really seems fine with it. I promised her she could go Santa shopping with me at least once to pick out a few things for Magoo and Wanda. More squealing ensued. We magic makers have a hard time containing ourselves sometimes.