Here’s the scene. 7:32 a.m., we have finally made it into
the car and are on our way to school. We wake up, every morning with plenty
of time to get there before the bell, but as usual, we are inevitably running
late and I no longer have my sweet morning voice, I’m now in the Army Sergeant
voice, with a “let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.” All the way to the car as they
doddle behind, oblivious to time.
We sit in the mini-van and we pass the Christmas tree farm and
My 8-year-old son, from the third row, wonders out loud,
“Mom…? Does Santa really watch us, like when we are sleeping? Like… watch us,
I’m hesitant. I see where this is going. I had been fielding
these types of questions from him for a couple of weeks now. Long gone is my
naïve son who was satisfied with my ridiculously fairytale like answers that
have worked for many others and me for so many blissful years.
“Well,..” I say carefully, “What do you think?”
He pauses and decides, “Well, if he watches us, like ALL the
time…like when we’re sleeping, that’s pretty creepy.” He laughs at this,
then silence. I think quickly. He’s not going to be quieted with my past
approach, I must modify. “Well, something you don’t know is that I’m the one,
watching. I then report back to Santa regularly.” I hate lying.
He eyes me carefully, a mix of intrigue, disbelief and
subtle betrayal. He’s about to say something again, but the traffic this
morning is on my side and I start to give the 2 minute drop off warning with
the various reminders of homework, permission slips, where I’ll meet him today
after I get his sister from her kindergarten class and then we are there at the
curb for drop off. Phew.
But, I’m stumped. I feel my time is limited.
I will miss the time when all of the stories made sense to
him. This stranger, a fat man that we trust immensely while we sleep to not
steal our things or take our children and how he fits into our chimney or his
ability to get in to our home with a giant magic key that we hang on our front
door because we don’t have a chimney, the elves, a flying sled, and how one man
can reach the world in one night flown by reindeer. Not to mention the diet of
cookies and how he must be immune to diabetes or death simply because well,
But, now that my son is 8 and the usual tale is starting to
seem implausible even to him, the questions are more specific. He is becoming
skeptical and it needs to be addressed. He is no longer satisfied with a
wistfully spoken “it’s magic” as I wave my arms in the air in random soft
loops. He wants answers. I’ve found myself coming up with these awful, totally
unbelievable outright lies.
Three weeks ago, he gave me his Christmas list. It consisted
of various electronic items. Only one was under $50. The big one? The new Wii
U. For those of you that don’t know, the Wii U is AWESOME! It’s also $349.
Before tax. I told him after reading his list that it was really expensive and
with having the usual holiday expenses and having to purchase gifts for his
sister as well, that it might have to wait.
Then, after his heartfelt plea to give his sister away to
another family and how that would eliminate the problem and then me explaining
to him, though he made a good point, we would NOT be giving his sister away, I
promised that I would help him save and we would get the Wii U when we had
enough together and he said, “Don’t worry Mom, I’m asking Santa.”
How convenient for him, that his skepticism disappears the
moment he wants something. Thanks 8.
Then, more lies. I begin waveringly, … “Well, you know…
Santa will give gifts to families based on their financial means.” He stares at
I continue, “I mean, he’s not going to bring me a brand new Mercedes,
right?” More blank stares. “As I wouldn’t’t be able to afford the PARTS to, uh…
to keep it up regularly. And the Wii U games are like $60, so he may want you
to be able to have more games, so…” I take a sip of vodka; “Maybe he
can get you a system where you could have more games…more often.”
I look to him hopefully… Please oh please, oh please…. And
he walks away for a moment. I see it on his face, the realization that Santa
has limits. His face grimaces, what the f*** Kind of Santa comes to our house?
Never before has there been an issue with what Santa brings. But before, it’s
been a new army truck, Lego set, scooter, but now that he’s older, he requires
systems and games and things that cost more than my monthly heating bill.
I’m sad. I’m sad for me and I’m sad for him. This was the
moment I’ve been dreading. For me, as a child, Santa was the shiz. I loved Christmas
and all that went with it. And yes, the spirit and being together was all part
of it, but that excitement I felt on Christmas Eve was just so good and
perfectly painful and thrilling and…MAGICAL.
I used to stare out my bedroom
window, looking for a red light of Rudolph’s nose, I placed cookies and milk in
the perfect spot, with a napkin for him to dab his rosy red lips, I hung my
stocking with immense care and at a perfect right degree angle so that it
remained decorative as well as sturdy, and I stayed up as long as I possible
And then the morning would come and it would be GLORIOUS!
Just the IDEA of it all was just too much for me to grasp and I loved it! I
loved the whole thing. Loved it. I loved how everyone was in a good mood, how
everyone was excited, because of Santa!!!
I was 7 when I found out. (I even tear up as I write this.)
The neighbor girls, who were just a year older, told me and I fought them tooth
and nail, pulled a good clump of hair out of the littler one and ran home
crying to tell my mom what they said. I begged my mom to tell me the truth,
or rather tell me that THEY were lying.
(I see now that she was in the same
place that I am now. If she continued the charade, it would be an outright lie, if she
told me the truth, heartbreak. I mean, I was the kid that thought the
Chipmunks were actual Chipmunks. Okay, maybe I wasn’t the smartest kid in the
world, but I wanted them to be real.)
She looked at me with that mom face with the mix of sad
and love, and she said, “No darlin’, there’s no Santa. Your daddy and
I do it”.
Record screech, still air, my heartbeat thumping loudly, I
yelled at her “I hate you” and I cried for hours and hours in my room alone.
Devastated. And Christmas hasn’t been the same since. Even as an
adult. Never the same. I enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t even about
presents or anything like that. But, the magic was gone. Exposed. And I felt
disheartened. Jaded. Damaged goods at 7.
Then I had kids and I got to feel it again through them.
I do not want my son to feel that way. Maybe he won’t, he’s
already proven to be a better person than I am. His understanding and kindness
and maturity astound me daily. Third grade has already started to chip away at
some of his innocence but at home I will protect it. Vehemently. So, I won’t risk
it. Not this year. But I know it will come.
Maybe next year I won’t answer his questions with lies – I’ll let him figure it out on his own but never outright acknowledge it. Maybe when
he’s 9, as a right of passage, I’ll “pass the torch” and let him do a little
secret Santa stuff with me, to help his sister believe as long as she can.
I don’t know. I wasn’t prepared for this. This wasn’t in
“What To Expect When You’re Expecting.”
For now, I will look the other way and pretend I don’t know
what he’s talking about. Tell him my hearing must be going or he needs to
annunciate better. I don’t know.
The good news, is between my family and myself, we have come
up with the money for the Wii U, but I will not let Santa get the credit for
this one. Santa will bring some great things, but this is the year where he can
open a gift that he so desperately wants and see the names of the people on the
tag who it’s from and know that we all made it happen for him. That the magic
this year did not come from Santa, but from his family and the people that love
him so much. That we all pitched in to get him what he really wanted, because he’s a
really great kid and deserves it.
So, THIS year I will begin that way. I will begin by
teaching him that you CAN have the things that you want, if you look among the
people that love you the most. The ones that are not magic, but can create a
magical moment. Ah hell, I can wait a few more months for my iPad. As cheesy as it sounds, my gift will be the look on his face when he opens it (after
he thinks Santa duped him).
Merry Christmas to me!
This story was originally published on 3 Stages of Girl.