Santa is not real.
I am worried that I may have ruined my son’s childhood. On Christmas eve nonetheless. Before he went to bed full of anticipation for Christmas morning, I decided to tell him THE Truth.
Well, I did not really decide per se.
He turned 9 this year and he’s always known that Easter Bunny is not real because, well, he is not a fucking idiot. He had suspected for a long time that tooth fairy is also not real so he went CSI on us: When he lost one of his teeth, he did not tell us. In the morning he came to the side of my bed, showed me his tooth, and said, “See. I put this under my pillow and it is still here this morning. I know tooth fairy is not real. This proves that YOU are the tooth fairy because I did NOT tell you about the tooth.”
Fine by me. I actually feel relieved because to prolong the lie as they grow older, the mechanism that goes into putting up the show becomes more elaborate, and then it goes from a harmless childhood tradition to full-blown deceit. When I heard about people that left footprints in the backyard, cracked the window open, sprinkled ashes by the fire place or reindeer droppings in the front lawn, I cringed. How much is too much?
At some point the child becomes old enough to just know and though it is not discussed, tooth fairy will simply stop visiting. At least that was how it went with my oldest boy.
With my youngest, Mr. Monk, it has been a completely different experience. He really wants to believe in the magic despite the contradictions he himself acknowledges. Throughout this year, he’s been hinting that he’s ready to let Santa go. Or rather, he knows that we the parents are Santa all along, “Just like the tooth fairy.” But he has never come right out and said, “Santa is not real.”
When my mother-in-law called me to confirm that Mr. Monk no longer believes in Santa, therefore we do not need to “do the Santa thing”, I said, “Sure. He’s outgrown it already.” All the presents were wrapped and labeled, and none of them were from Santa. Then when Mr. Monk and Grandma were making Christmas cookies, he said, “Remember to leave a cookie out for Santa.” With all the sincerity and conviction of a young child. My heart skipped a beat.
After the Christmas eve party, when we were trying to get him and his cousin to go to bed, the two of them begged for a cookie for Santa. And a glass of milk.
“Are you sure about this? Is Santa coming tonight?”
“Mom, you forgot? Santa is coming and he will eat the cookie and drink the milk just like he did every year.”
Never mind that my husband was always the one that volunteered to be Santa by taking a big bite out of the Christmas cookie, finishing the milk, and for good measure, leaving a crumpled napkin on the table.
My niece does not believe in Santa. She knows that Santa is not real because that’s the way her parents decide to bring her up. They have been kind enough to play along, and every year, my mother-in-law would prepare a present from Santa for my niece just to be convincing. I looked at her enthusiasm and excitement as she and Mr. Monk prepared the cookie and milk and the accompanying note for Santa, and realized that for a child sometimes knowing something is not real is different from wanting to believe in that something.
When I put the kids to bed on Christmas eve, I whispered to my oldest, “Do you think Mr. Monk still believes in Santa?”
“I think he knows. He just does not want to admit it…” He turned around and asked his brother, “Hey, ____, do you think you will get anything from Santa tomorrow morning?”
“How do you think Santa is going to get here?”
“On his sleigh. Pulled by his reindeer of course.”
After a prolonged dance around the touchy subject aka beating about the bush, finally my oldest sighed, “This is like that saying ‘How do you find out a bomb really works?’ Don’t make me ask you that question that if I ask you you are going to know…”
“Just make the big presents the Santa presents.” All of a sudden Mr. Monk said.
“No. Make the small things the Santa presents.” My oldest countered, “Otherwise you never get to thank mom and dad for the big presents.”
“No. I want the big presents to be from Santa.” Mr. Monk protested.
“This settles it then.” I thought, “He knows the truth.” Feeling relieved, I said to my oldest, ”So, [Oldest Boy], do you want a Santa present too?”
All of a sudden, Mr. Monk’s face fell and he pulled the blanket above and over his head, visibly upset. “Do you have to tell me this on Christmas eve? Can’t you wait until the day after?”
WHAT HAVE I DONE?
“Do you have to ruin my childhood? And on Christmas eve?”
SIGH. KILL ME NOW. Not sure though whether I’m more disturbed by how I potentially single-handed ruined his childhood or by how he sounded just like me, a master of guilt-trip…
Yes I know. I am the worst, most evil mother in the whole world. Oy ve.
“Hey, it’s better you know now. Do you really want some old creepy fat guy crawling around your house and watching you while you’re sleeping?” My oldest intervened. This made Mr. Monk laugh and we once again skipped the subject at hand.
After a long while he stopped alternating between sobbing and laughing at his big brother’s antics and finally fell asleep. I went downstairs, pulled out three presents from under the Christmas tree, rewrapped them in the special wrapping paper reserved for “Santa gifts”, and slapped a sticker on each of them that said “From Santa”…