“Mommy, Jenna told me that Santa is not real.”
I pause from doing the dishes, feeling a pang of sadness, regretting that a little bit of magic and innocence has been lost. I take a deep breath. “What do you think?”
She pauses, defiantly throwing back her shoulders: “She said that parents are Santa Claus.”
Another pause. “And how does that make you feel?” I ask quietly.
All of the sudden, her defiant stance droops, and she says with tears in her voice: “It makes me feel sad.”
I step in to give her a big hug, admittedly a little ticked off that her friend shattered the idea of Santa for her – rather than letting time bring her to her own ideas on her own time. “Me too.” I say.
When I was in grade two, I took it upon myself to solve the mystery of Santa Claus. In my logical mind, I turned to the most-trusted source of all knowledge: the encyclopedia. Lo and behold, my question was answered with this sentence: Santa Claus is a legendary man. This must have impacted me significantly, as I can still recall it as clear as day. I remember thinking Yup, that’s what I thought – but also feeling let down because I had wanted to believe.
So now, with my second child on the cusp of belief, I am back to pondering how to best deal with this in our home. Both times when my children announced to me that they know that Santa is not real, I have paused, wondering what to say. On the one hand, I am committed to being truthful with my children, but on the other hand, I want to preserve in them the magic of belief. I remember my own childhood disappointment -and I want to raise them knowing that they live in a world of limitless possibilities. So how does the Santa question fit in? All that I can do is answer them truthfully, from what I feel in my heart to be true.
See, I get that children are going to come to the logical conclusion that parents buy the Santa gifts. But I don’t think that that is what the real question was about. I believe they were questioning what is real and what is not – and wanting to believe that all things are possible – I think on some level they are asking for permission to continue to dream.
And so when my children have stood before me, questioning some magic they hope to be true, imploring me with their eyes to simultaneously not shatter their dreams, but to also tell them the truth – it can pose a challenge to a parent. To both of my children, I have continued the conversation with some questions.
“Do you believe that anything is possible?” I ask.
“Yes,” they both have replied. “Me too,” I say truthfully.
“And do you believe in magic?” I ask.
“Yes,” they have replied. “Me too” I say.
“And do you believe that love is the most powerful force in the world?” I ask.
“Of course!” they answer.
“And do you think that anything done in the spirit of giving is coming from LOVE?” I ask.
“Yes” they say.
I pause, “Do you think that maybe Santa is the spirit of giving?”
They pause, “Y-E-S” they answer slowly, with a hint of a smile appearing on their faces.
“Does it really matter who helps Santa?” I ask. “What if we are all helping Santa be real, every time we are in the spirit of giving?” By now, they are grinning ear to ear.
I look at them – not only as my children, but as intelligent human beings, and I tell them what I believe to be true:
“I believe that LOVE is the most powerful force in the universe, and we live in a world where anything is possible. I believe that magic exists, I believe in the spirt of giving, and I choose to believe in Santa, too.”
With that, their eyes light up with joy – and I have the sense that I have answered their question to their satisfaction.
I can have this conversation, because for me it is true. See, I believe that we all want to believe in magic and possibilities. It feels good, filling us up with excitement. So while our kids may have figured out that we play the Santa role in our house – the real issue, in my mind is this: that their belief that we live in a world of infinite possibilities is firmly intact.
And so, in our house, Santa will continue to visit for years on end. Because we choose to keep the magic – no matter what anyone else says.