The secret’s out and there will be changes this Christmas.
We have “done” Santa each year since our Oldest was 3. We had waffled before that and had decided we would not do Santa even telling our sweet tiny Oldest that there was no real Jolly Old Elf, but that we would let our friends pretend. Matt had always said it would be fine to pretend and let them have Santa, but I worried because I remember not taking the news well when I was a kid and worried about betrayals, lies, and confusion over the real meaning of Christmas. So Matt gave in and we told him clearly there was no Santa. But then about 3 days before that 3rd Christmas he said so innocently to me, “Mama, will Santa bring me a present too like the other kids?” I caved like you’ve never seen. “Of course, he will sweetheart!” Matt leaned his head around the corner of the living room and looked at me like I was crazy. It was comical. But who would tell their baby that Santa wasn’t bringing them presents?! Not this mama!!
And so begun the years of uneasy lies that followed. When they asked me specific Santa questions I always redirected them to their daddy (ha!) or would say, “That’s what they say”.
This continued for years.
Right up to this summer when I was front porch sitting and chatting with a friend about our torn up trampoline net. The kids were playing in the yard, but the then 10 year old Oldest was sitting in a rocking chair listening in as he does so often now. I mentioned to the friend that we had gotten a pretty good deal on our trampoline last year at Sam’s. MyOldest’s face was in complete shock, but he didn’t say anything until the friend left. At which point he immediately whispered, “I knew it! I knew it! Santa got us that trampoline last Christmas!” Oh no. Ohhhhh Noooo. I had done it. And I had done it big. Granted, he was 10. It was probably time. But it was a turning point. We talked much about it and asked if he would help keep the secret with the others. He was thrilled to.
But Matt and I talked about it and decided to let the 9 year old Middlest in on it so that there would not be division between those 2 very close boys. He took it fairly well. And was excited to help with the others as well.
Skip forward to a few weeks ago. We’ve been reading through the Bible with all the kids and we are to the new testament. Our 5 year old BigMan has been asking some meaty questions about God and Jesus. This particular day we had just read John 20:26 and it prompted a discussion about how Jesus “appeared” here and there after his resurrection. It was just BigMan and I having a quiet discussion about being invisible and that led to more questions about God, His invisibility yet His very realness. And then out of the blue he said, “like Santa is invisible, but real?” And my heart thumped. I knew I was cornered. There was no “go ask your daddy” or “that’s what they say”. I knew it was time to make a very real distinction between reality and pretend. It was time to put Santa in his place. And so I told him. He was quietly shocked. I still don’t think his little heart is taking it so well. But I get ahead of myself. As I sat there holding his hand and saying, “Well, Sweetie, no God is very, very real, but Santa is just pretend, he’s not real.” My 7 year old daughter walked in. I’m not kidding. At that moment. She shrieked, “WHAT?!! Santa’s not real?!!!” And another one fell. Before I could say anything more she ran in screaming to the older boys that Santa wasn’t real. TheOldest looked at me accusingly and said, “You told her?!” I explained that BigMan had asked me outright and TheOldest immediately said yes, absolutely you have to tell the truth about God. Even to 5 year olds. Especially to 5 year olds. Who are sorting out reality from pretend.
And so, in a matter of months we’ve gone from 5 believers of Santa to 1. With one little one coming up behind the rest. We’ve discussed that we’ll call it off even with 3 year old LittleBuddy and just be done with this part of parenting. But it’s hard to make this transition. And I’m secretly irked that society has made it so that we even have to deal with this. Can’t we just celebrate this season of wonder the way it was meant to be? As an awesome, fun, glorious birthday celebration? But the answer is no. We can’t. We have to confront this dilemma head on.
The other day MyOldest came in from taking a shower, evidently doing some deep thinking, and said,”So, doesn’t this whole believing in Santa thing just distract everybody from Jesus?” Gosh, that boy’s a thinker. Yes, yes, he does. But we don’t want to hate. We still want to have fun. And we will. In a new way.
For several years now we’ve done a Jessie tree devotional during advent and this year in addition to that and the names of Jesus count down chain we’ll drop all of our normal schoolwork and we’ll do Amanda Bennett’s Christmas unit study during the day learning about the real meaning of Jesus.
We’ll still do all the fun silly stuff; watching all of the fun silly shows, reading all of the fun silly books. But with a new knowledge in our home. Matt and I secretly will mourn the death of a belief in that mythical clown. (which brings to mind the tree of knowledge of good and evil and how there was a different kind of death when they ate of that knowledgeable fruit, but that’s a post for another day)
As Matt said, “Santa had a good run. Especially in our house when his days were already numbered.” And he also said comforting me in my,”I’m sorry I spoiled Christmas” moment, “You know, God trumps Santa any day.” I knew he was right and I smiled.