The day has finally come, one I have been both looking forward to and dreading for years. The last of my children now understands the whole “truth” about Santa, and all other magical home invading beings as well, like the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Elf on the Shelf, and the Dishwashing Gnome (ok, I destroyed their belief in that last one before it could ever get off the ground). No longer does the childhood innocence of holiday magic have a prominent place in our home.
In the past, when our children got to be around middle school age, we have found a time close to Christmas to break the news to them, as gently as possible, that there wasn’t really a jolly fat man who came down our chimney to deliver gifts every Christmas night. It was, instead, the work of their slightly overweight parents in their pajamas, lugging toys down the stairs from their bedroom closet as soon as we thought we could get away with it without waking them and rousing suspicion. We thought we owed it to them to be the ones to tell them, before they became “that kid” at school whom everyone made fun of for believing way too long. The news devastated our older kids. My son asked to be alone for a bit to process his grief, my daughter cried and said that I had “killed magic”. We put off telling our younger three kids in the hopes they would figure it out and we wouldn’t have to destroy their childhoods as well.
This year, our youngest turned 13. It seemed like everywhere we went, there were announcements in bright neon lights “There is No Santa!” For example, when we went to see a couple of superhero movies, they were running an ad for “Bad Mom’s Christmas” in which they interviewed the three stars about whether they had ever gotten caught playing Santa, or if they ate the milk and cookies themselves. The time had come. I said I would be the one to talk to our youngest. That day, he and I happened to go see a lovely play about the Waltons family, the one from the eponymous tv show. Despite the fact that it was a family friendly show, there was a lot of blatant “there is no Santa” talk. As we left the theater, my son sarcastically says to me, “So, mom, do you have something to tell me about this whole Santa thing? Is he real?” I responded, “Well, if you mean is there a man dressed in a red suit who lives at the north pole with elves and goes around the world with his flying reindeer to deliver gifts to every household in one night… No. Is the spirit of love and giving that Santa represents real? Absolutely.”
He took it in stride as he already had his suspicions. Apparently, his older sister had found my stash of all their baby teeth a few years back (I have NO idea why I kept them all), and showed it to him. Plus he had accidentally seen one of his brother’s gifts in the house once before Christmas, a gift that ended up being from Santa. He laughed, and promised to keep the magic alive for his younger cousins. Just to be on the safe side, we asked his slightly older siblings what they thought about Santa, and they both looked at us like we were idiots to even think there was a chance they still thought he was real.
It’s the end of an era. No more frantically trying to organize presents at midnight on Christmas Eve since our kids are all up late these days, teenagers and adults that they are. No more trying to hold them off at 5 am Christmas morning as they can no longer sleep dreaming of what Santa has brought in the night. No more trying to sneak into rooms to find a tooth the size of a pea and exchanging it for cash in the middle of the night like some illicit late-night drug deal. And, best of all, no more trying to come up with clever things to do with the Elf on the Shelf EVERY SINGLE DAY! Our elf, Genry, now sits on top of the Christmas tree and evilly grins at us remembering how he made us jump through hoops for years to delight and amaze our children. It’s bittersweet, knowing that our kids are growing up, and their childhood innocence and magic no longer have a place in our home. I have a feeling “Santa” is still going to fill the stockings each year, and the “Easter Bunny” will still leave enough candy at our home to put a horse into a diabetic coma. I don’t regret “fooling” my children for all those years, because their joy and excitement was real, even if the source of that joy wasn’t quite what they expected. So long, Santa, it’s been nice knowin’ you.