Last year our daughter admitted to us that she hadn’t really believed in Santa anymore. In fact, she hadn’t believed the year earlier but hadn’t said anything for fear of losing those presents. My wife was devastated, she said something to the effect of, “It was the beginning of the end of our daughter’s youth! The loss of innocence! We may as well sign her up for a job in a cubicle and marry her off to a fat middle aged man!” Luckily it’s not the 1800s, or certain parts of the Middle East. And luckily I have two younger children who do still believe, for our eldest’s sake, not just for my wife’s.
What I discovered this year is that the Magic hasn’t died for my eldest. It’s changed, deepened somehow, and she, on her own, had something to do with it. Instead of becoming disenfranchised with the whole show, it was like she got to see how it worked, like a Behind the Scenes encounter at a musical or play, or watching the director’s commentary of a favorite movie. She didn’t just figure out what the trick was, she learned how we make it happen, and how she could be a part of it.
That was the eye opening part to me. A revelation. A Christmas Miracle even! I’ve always been a big kid around Christmas time, grinning for no reason and sometimes being downright jolly. My normal scowl lightens and I rarely frighten children by accident. For example, I say I hate cutting down the tree every year and every year I think I mean it, but by the time I drag that thing on top of my van, I’m in love with the tradition all over again. (Except this year, this year sucked and never again) And I’m always the first one awake. Hell, I started writing this at 6:30 in the morning on Christmas Day! My daughter made me realize that I get so excited because I’m making the magic happen for someone else. I’m giving them the gift of magic and wonder, and now she’s a part of that too.
Somebody, a few years ago, wrote a post about a Santa Claus Society or something like that, and when your kid stops believing you “induct” them into the society and make them a part of it. Why muddy the waters? Tell them the truth, but show them how you make the magic! Teach them about the sacrifice you make every Christmas Eve night pretending to be Santa (or other winter holiday icon), and to do it without expecting an iota of recognition. Each time you do something to enforce or enhance the magic, catch their eye and slip them a little wink or sly glance, or if you’re feeling extra jolly, you can even lay your finger aside of your nose to let them know what you’re doing.
I hope they’ll be amazed, I hope they see the magic in what you’re doing, and I hope they want to spread that magic too, because it’s been a long time since I’ve believed in Santa, but being Santa these past thirteen years has been, well magical. And now I’ve got an elf.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!