By Eliska Counce, TSB Columnist
I’m getting nervous, y’all. It seems my nine year old is, age appropriately, starting to be suspicious of the Santa thing. He’s no dummy, and it turns out he’s kind of on to us. He’s got hardened criminals for friends as elementary school, evidently, who are jaded. They’ve left Santa behind already, and they’re talking to him.
Now, he is becoming a skeptic. Asking questions. And he, in fact, has told me he will be no less than brokenhearted (his words! Egad!) if it turns out his parents actually engaged in years of subterfuge and what must only add up in his little head to no less than felony identity theft and betrayal: lying about leaving presents instead of the Big Guy. The parental stakes are high.
Twice, my son has mentioned it! The depths to which he will feel pain if Dad and I are the ones leaving the gifts under the tree. We were safe for awhile after we bought him his hand-held gaming system for awhile. He told us he knew Santa was real after getting his Nintendo a year ago because and according to him: “You’re way too poor to buy me a Nintendo!” But this year, I can tell the school peers have been bending his ear a bit about Saint Nick and his faith has been tested.
And it’s time; the average age kids find out Santa’s presents come from mom and dad is actually age seven. So we’ve squeezed a good bit of magic out of the Fat Man for my oldest boy. But he’s got two younger siblings, seven and five, for whom we’d like to make the magic last a bit longer. So we’re juking in a Yuletide minefield over here, folks. We can’t afford a misstep that blows the experience up for everyone. A meltdown must be avoided.
He wants to know how Santa bends the laws of physics. He’s curious about all those “Santa’s helpers” dressed up as Santa and exactly how these grownups are in league with the Head Elf. He’s especially curious why Santa would be limited in his electronics availability. He’s starting to notice toys are not stamped “Made At the North Pole.” And that the UPS driver seems to keep delivering packages to me that quickly disappear. But he doesn’t want to give Santa, or being a kid, up just yet.
Because my oldest, also known as Borg Designation 1 of 3, is a little different from boys his age. He’s still living a rich fantasy life; he’s a dreamer, a softie. He just might be one of those kids who has some trouble if Santa is yanked out from behind the curtain in a sudden kind of way. And after trolling the internet researching, as is wont to happen, I’ve not been encouraged by what I’ve read about how Hubs and I should have been handling Santa.
Evidently, and according the interwebs, by perpetuating the Santa myth to my kids I make them question the existence of God, turn them into materialistic takers, ruin the trust between us, and compromise own morality. I’ve learned my true motive in being Santa is to bribe my kids into good behavior. Silly me! Even Brad Pitt claims to have been emotionally scarred by the dawning of enlightenment where Santa was concerned. Although he seems to have turned out okay. And with his kind of money, I’m sure Christmas is every day for his pack of kids. But I digress.
So has Santa been worth it? Seems to me and looking around, most people I know were raised with some belief in Santa if you have a certain socio-cultural experience. As I recall it happening to me, logic and reason by age nine had me knowing that there was no way Santa was a true entity.
And that fateful day when my dad popped the trunk open to reveal accidentally our suddenly unveiled Christmas bounty and then turned to my brother and me to say, “You knew Santa wasn’t real,” I was not torn asunder emotionally. I felt mature. Smart and sophisticated. I was among the adult ranks now.
In fact, since our younger sibling was still Santa-aged, we were brought in as honorary adults at Christmas, care-taking the Santa magic for our baby brother. It felt like a right of passage and a responsibility. And Santa still brought surprise gifts for us and was part of our family long after we knew he was a myth along with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.
So, Santa lives on at Chez Counce. Perhaps I’ve done my children a disservice with all those reindeer-nibbled carrots and cookie crumbs left on the plate, notes from the tooth fairy, and hidden eggs. But I’ve decided when asked the Big Question at last by my children regarding Santa’s reality, I will channel writer Frank Church who wrote these words on the pages of the New York Sun in his classic 1897 response to eight year old Virginia O’Hanlon’s question about whether Santa Claus was real:
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
So here’s to milk-and-cookie-ing Santa for all he’s worth. Most of us come out of childhood with minimal scarring about the existence of Santa, and he’s a great way to pass down wonderful culture and values to our children. Let’s enjoy him at every age. If worse comes to worst, it’s just more grist for my kids’ future therapy mills, after all, right?
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.