What do you tell your kids about the jolly fat man? I grew up loving Santa, anxiously counting the days until his fantastical yearly visit. Thanks to Mr. Claus, Christmas Eve was the most thrilling, sleepless, cranium-detonatingly antsy night of the year. Oh how I vibrated with joy and magic as Christmas approached.
As I grew older I started to have my doubts and gradually I became one of the magic bringers, rather than the receiver. I told my younger siblings stories and laid awake with them on the 24th giggling and asking if they heard the sleigh bells. I remember no crash of disillusionment or dramatic moment where I KNEW and cried and cursed my parents for deceiving me all those years. All I remember is the magic.
For some reason, my adult friends seem far less likely to carry on the tradition of Santa Claus than did previous generations. Some say they don't want to lie to their kids or mess with their heads. When they find out the truth about Santa, will they ever believe another word that comes out of our mouths?
I've worried about this. There are so many important things I'm teaching my children that I desperately want them to believe. It's scary to risk disillusioning them to the point that they question everything I say. What if they decide I must have been lying about the presence of electricity in the wall sockets and stick a fork in there to find out? What if they decide to categorize God with other imaginary silliness Mom likes to tease about?
Telling them The Truth seems like the only enlightened thing to do. But somehow it doesn't feel right to turn my back on a tradition that's brought me so much joy and giddy glee continually throughout my life. Besides, The Truth is a funny thing.
This morning Laylee dressed herself in several different shades of mismatched pink. She put clashing barrettes all over her head at random places and came to me grinning for approval before heading out the door to preschool. Did I tell her she looked like a color-blind dork? No. Because to me she looked happy and adorable and I was glad to see her that way. 10 years from now is she going to confront me? "Mom! How could you tell me I looked pretty back then when I had absolutely no sense of style?"
I'll tell her it's because she looked beautiful to me. And when she asks me why I told her Santa was real, I'll tell her it's because he was real and beautiful to me.
The kind old men in the malls really ARE Santa's helpers, carrying on his legacy of love and giving. The kids really ARE receiving gifts from someone who loves them and who is Santa Claus at heart.
When Laylee recently asked me if Santa Claus really for real drove a red sleigh in real life, I told her that that's the way I'd always heard it in all the stories though I'd never seen him myself. I asked her if she wanted to believe in Santa. She said, "Yes." I told her that it sure is wonderful to believe. She agreed.