So Long, SantaPosted: December 13, 2010
I guess it was inevitable. But after 11½ years this will be the first Christmas where leaving out cookies and milk for Santa will feel superfluous. Letting go of this piece of the magic is perhaps harder on parents than kids. For children, the process is often a slow realization; a seed of doubt gets planted by a classmate or an older sibling or a kid at the back of the bus. Some children try to hold on for as long as they can; innately aware that once lost they can never get it back. Others throw off the mantle of belief with great glee, seeing in it a giant step toward independence.
Ben, a sixth grader, fell into the former category. Zack, our 9-year-old fourth grader, was firmly in the latter. Maybe it’s an older/younger sibling thing. Ben held on for an extra year not wanting to let go of the joy and wonder of Christmas morning. Zack has delighted in uncovering the truth and refused to let me or Bryna leave after tucking him in one night this December until we “admitted it.” This was important to him – beyond any notion that “you must believe to receive.”
And he’s been fine with the reality. Though I did want to remind him about his response to the Easter Bunny a couple of years ago. “Dad, a giant rabbit hopping all over the world delivering jelly beans? Get real.” This revelation didn’t translate to a guy zipping around in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. I think it had to do with the fact that as nice as the Easter Bunny may be, there aren’t any real presents involved. No one gets an i-Pod for Easter unless it’s made of milk chocolate.
I’m pleased to report this newfound worldview hasn’t diminished our pre-Christmas preparations. The boys still fight over whose turn it is to open the Advent calendar. And as we trimmed the tree they still enjoyed mocking me in my annual struggle to string the lights. They’ve been prancing around the house with their Santa hats and are vigilantly counting down the days until December 25th.
But still, there’s an innocence you can never get back and that’s what grieves a parent’s heart. It’s only one of the many transitions between childhood and adulthood, albeit a very tangible one. And while I have it on good authority that Santa still plans to visit this year it won’t ever be quite the same.