This week, I took my seven-year-old daughter, Harper, to see Santa Claus. It was a Wednesday night, and because Christmas is still almost two weeks away, there was barely a line. I wasn’t standing too close, but I heard her tell him she wanted a pink bike, and then they sat down together and took this picture:
As you can see, in this picture, they are acting like a couple of old friends… But secretly, she’s been questioning him.
A few days ago, I asked her what she wanted from Santa.
“Why do YOU want to know?” she asked me pointedly. “I thought it was just between me and him.”
“Because,” I told her, “I’m your mother and I want to know all about you. I like to know your Christmas list.”
Normally, the answer would’ve satisfied her, but this time, it didn’t…
“I’m not sure about Santa anymore,” she told me.
“Because a boy at school said he’s made up. He said there’s no Santa.”
“That’s terrible,” I told her. “Why would he do that?”
“It made me think,” she said skeptically… “I remembered the time you told me about the Easter Bunny, and that really got to me.”
Ugh… the Easter Bunny. How I hate that stupid rabbit. I make no apologies about it. To the dismay and angry stares of honest adoring parents that want their children to believe in the magic of the Easter Bunny, I told Harper he was fake from the beginning.
“Look,” I told her at the time. “The Easter Bunny is creepy. He’s weird. His head is too big for his body. What does he do? Does he lay eggs? Does he hide eggs? Is there a chicken involved? He’s a creature invented solely for marketing… He’s not so much a hero as he is the manufacturer for Peeps.”
I thought I was being smart keeping her away from the dumb rabbit. But instead, it caused this deep existential crisis within her regarding holiday mascots.
“If the Easter Bunny isn’t real,” she told me this week, “I don’t see how Santa is real.”
It was like having Charles Darwin in a Sunday School class.
“They are nothing alike,” I told Harper, frantically searching for the right words. “Santa takes toys to kids. He cares about all children. The Easter Bunny just sits in malls and shows up at random parties to scare adults like me with his big weird head and his eyes that don’t blink.”
Harper looked at me with the same puzzled expression that other mothers have given me when I’ve explained my dislike for the Easter Bunny.
“Do YOU believe in Santa Claus?” she asked me. “Do YOU think he’s real?”
And here is where some people might take issue with my answer… Because instead of doling out a great explanation like… “Well, Santa might not be a real guy, but the spirit of giving is real, and so as we give and receive with open and thankful hearts, we keep his spirit alive…”
Instead of saying that… I decided to go the Jim Jones route and answer her this way:
“Yes, Harper. Santa Claus is completely real. I don’t doubt it for a second. I believe it completely and I can’t wait to put out the cookies and milk and the reindeer food on Christmas Eve…”
“Okay,” Harper said quietly. “I believe you.”
But as I stepped away from our conversation, I had to ask myself… Was I telling her Santa was real for her or was it for me?
One of the best things about being a parent is that you get the opportunity to remember what it was like to be a child. There are many magical moments in childhood that you forget or you overlook… Until you have your own child… And then you remember them.
Sitting at the table with her on Christmas Eve while she drafts a letter to Santa…. We bake cookies and put out milk… Then she falls asleep while Erin and I stay up until two in the morning wrapping presents and putting toys together…
It has given us some crazy memories… Once we put together an over two-hundred piece doll house… It required Double-A Batteries and an engineering degree to assemble… The hubs and I nearly killed each other. I threatened to load the doll house into the car and drive it back to Toys R Us at three in the morning. But when Harper woke up one hour later, and the doll house was waiting for her… The look on her face made it worth it…
Sneaking around and watching Harper’s surprise on Christmas morning is fun and sweet. As excited as she is, though, I think I am more excited… And in a world that is grossly missing kindness and sweetness, it is a breath of joy.
My husband told me he felt I should’ve told her the truth when she asked. And really, I think I should’ve as well.
But… I wasn’t ready to let Santa go yet. I wasn’t ready to let “Tiny Harper” go either.
I was talking to my friend, Jolene, the other day… Jolene has three kids, and they are officially old enough now, so that they all know the truth about Santa… As I lamented this story to Jolene, she had this to say… “No one ever tells you when the last day of adventure will come. You have to make the most of those moments while they last.”
And she’s right… There is a last day for everything…. A final baby tooth to be pulled… A final day for the doll house… And of course, there is a final day for Santa Claus.
The French call the seventh year of a child’s life L’Age de Raison, or THE AGE OF REASON… This is where the questioning all begins, and Harper is right on track.
There are some tough questions around Santa and this might be his last year… So I will enjoy him greatly. Of course, our Christmas-to-comes will be filled with joy and excitement…. But, it’s hard for parents when they learn the truth about Santa.