It happened in one quick moment. I was making the egg salad. My two youngest kids and I were chatting about the need to keep tabs on the dog who recently had taken to leaving “presents” throughout the house.
“I don’t want her leaving “presents” in the living room”, I said. “It’s just not good”.
“Yeah”, my 10 year-old son agreed. Always ready for a dose of potty humor, he added, “No presents unless you’re Santa Claus”. We laughed.
I paused before adding my signature dill. A parenting moment had popped up and was staring me in the face. It was actually waving its arms to get my attention. I tried to dismiss it, but knew it wouldn’t go away easily.
I never officially had “the Santa Claus” talk with my youngest two kids. I listened to my internal argument, “not now, you don’t won’t to steal their childhood”. I looked at my beautiful, blonde, almost 13 year-old daughter, and “I swear did he grow again” son and felt my mother’s denial lose its grip.
It’s July. I always addressed this issue during summer months with my older kids. It always seemed less traumatic six months out, rather than in the midst of the holidays. But surely they already know, I argued with the nagging prod logic to broach the subject. Should I even bother? My internal argument of denial revived, until I silenced it with one quick question.
“What do you guys think about Santa Claus”?
I noticed my daughter steal a look at her brother.
“I mean, who do you think Santa really is?” I stirred in the dill imagining the despair of crushed fantasies.
It was dreadfully awkward. My stupid question had lit a bomb in the kitchen and we were quietly waiting for it to blow. How could I allow the destruction of childhood fantasy to be served with a side of pasta salad and corn dog? I was an awful mother!
My dear, sweet, youngest son, ever conscious of my emotional state, stepped up and filled the void. He would throw himself on the bomb.
“I think…..” he said pausing just long enough to turn, face me, and produce a mischievous smile. “….it’s Mommy Claus and Daddy Claus.”
I began to relax. His sister, however, did not respond. She waited.
“And, what do you think?” I asked re-lighting the fuse, while she silently munched and stared at her plate. She is an artistic dreamer, a believer in fairy tales and fairies, the world is magic in her eyes. I felt the cruelness of pushing the issue, but I had to didn’t I? I looked away, afraid to watch the destruction of her child-like spirit. Waiting for the bomb to explode.
A bit of silence. She stared at her plate, I returned to the egg salad. I sensed a keen awareness of a unified, quiet dance around the truth. Were we both afraid to close the door on yet another landmark of child-like innocence? I had to take the lead.
“Sierra, who do you think Santa Claus is?”
“Well…. I don’t think he could possibly be one person”, she offered. I relaxed. She smiled at me. She knew.
I was so relieved. My conversation bomb was filled with feathers. Their pysche was intact.
“When did you guys figure out who Santa really was”?
“A few years ago”, admitted my son.
” I think it was the year that Santa’s presents were wrapped with the same wrapping paper that you used for Dad’s presents”, my daughter said.
“Why didn’t you say something?” I asked.
“Because it’s fun to believe”, she said. My son agreed.
We discussed logistics of Christmas presents. We discussed cultural traditions and the symbolism of Christ’s birth connected to St. Nicholas. We recalled the fun of “playing the Santa Claus game” as pre-schoolers and Kindergarteners. We ate the rest of our lunch and planned out our day.
After lunch, we went outside to mow, rake, and collect grass trimmings for our massive yard. Yard work provides lots of time for thinking. As I worked in the hot sun, side by side with my youngest children, I had a small revelation.
My babies, the “little kids” weren’t really little any longer. Somehow, without me consciously realizing it, these two slipped from childhood into the lives of young adults. Thank goodness for Santa Claus. He showed up in our kitchen unexpectedly today, and dropped off one last gift for me. Well done.