Eight years, six weeks, and a handful of days into parenting, and it finally happened: My daughter no longer believes in Santa Claus. How this dreaded moment unfolded was particularly heartbreaking.
I was sitting with my children, waiting for a class to start when a woman, whom I like very much, said (to someone else) in a loud voice, “Can you believe a teacher was fired for telling the children there is no Saaaan….”
I snapped like a brittle gingerbread cookie.
“STOP TALKING NOW!” I shouted, practically leaping to cover my daughter’s ears. “I’m dead serious.”
The woman looked somewhat confused –an understandable reaction since we were waiting for Hebrew lesson to begin. (For a full explanation of this dichotomy, go back to last year’s Christmakah As We Know It.) Nevertheless, she apologetically bit her lip, silenced by my demonic display.
I suppose as my husband would put it, I was “overreacting.” You could even argue that I was downright rude. Since I genuinely like this woman, I felt a little bad. Not that bad though. Nobody messes with Santa.
Just as I was about to burst into tears, my daughter swooped in and began hugging me, mumbling: “Mommy, it’s OK. It’s OK!!!” Clearly, she was not the traumatized party in this scenario.
Apparently, my daughter had quit on Santa long ago, but was keeping up the charade for my benefit. She learned that behavior from me. As I wrote last year, Mom went to her death bed eerily refusing to deny Santa’s existence. “You never know,” she would say breathlessly, “You never know.”
I intend to do exactly the same.
“Why?” you might ask. The myth of Santa is hardly honorable. He exists to encourage us to lie to our children while spending money we don’t have. A struggling single mother once told me that she did not want Santa getting the credit for the incredibly hard work she put into buying her daughter gifts. I cannot deny the truth in her thought process.
Nevertheless, when I woke up on Christmas morning as a child, a palpable magic hung in the air. It really and truly wasn’t the presents themselves. On those mornings, the tree always seemed to glow preternaturally, and my house felt like a castle. For a brief moment, a quiet fell upon my family; we shared a fleeting sense of bliss. Christmas had come and the day lay before us, full of promise and the joy in being together.
Even when I stopped believing in Santa that feeling clung to Christmas morning like thick snow. In later years, the magic came from knowing we had carved out time and money to celebrate as a family. Yet, to me that magic was still synonymous with Santa.
My daughter and I have yet to acknowledge the moment Santa was outed. We seem to have struck an implicit understanding to keep the charade going. Maybe she is just looking out for her little brother or doesn’t want to risk not getting presents. But I like to think that, like my mother, there’s a tiny part of her whispering: “You never know. You never know.”
What’s your opinion? Why do you or don’t you live the lie?