Before Christmas this year, Jessica and I knew that it would be the last one for Eli. That one where he’d believe in Christmas the way an innocent little boy does, where everything is magical and the need to make everything truly explainable doesn’t exist. He was simply putting too much together throughout this last year but Jessica and I held on to that hope that we could squeak one more Christmas out before we’d have to have “The talk.” We knew that if Eli asked us flat out, it’d be time. We’ve always prided ourselves with being totally honest with our kids but we’ve always made just the one exception for the magic that is Santa and Christmas. We had always explained that the important thing was the spirit of hope, love, giving, and the connection that Santa and Christmas causes us to feel and how it’s a reminder to focus on the good in this world after what is typically a year with lots of downs. So, while we always did that, we also tied it to the jolly man with the elves.
We’ve read a lot of studies and theories on whether or not kids should be told about Santa. Some say it’s a lie the kids never get over. Some say it’s a magic they’ll hold onto their whole lives. I am sure that part of it is in how you go about doing it and part of it really just has to do with the child. In other words, it’s a crap shoot and as I get more experience in this parenting thing, I’m discovering that it’s all really just one big science experiment, anyway; one in which someone is constantly changing the components on you (with and without your knowledge).
We had just gotten the kids to bed in their rooms. They are allowed about 30 minutes of time after they go to their rooms to do what they want. They can do what they wish as long as it involves winding down. With six kids in the house, there is a lot of activity and action and they need their time alone and they need to relax; no different than adults. Jessica and I tell the kids we’re “off duty,” which is another way of saying that we need our alone time as well. As a general rule, they respect that, but not a night goes by that one of the kids does not need something.
We had just sat down and I was explaining to Jessica that Eli is changing before our eyes. We’ve seen “growing up” indicators within the last few weeks and it seems like they’re just ramping up. He’s shown great maturity in many ways, which makes us proud. But at the same time, we’re seeing that little boy disappearing. This is natural, of course, but it seems to be happening in a faster blink of the eye than it had been. Yes. Eli is growing up. Jessica acknowledged the same.
Ten minutes later was when I received the Skype message from him. Am I sure that I am not pretending to be Santa? It was time.
After a brief discussion with Jessica (very brief), I told him to come down. I was going to let Jessica do all the talking. She is so much better at this type of thing than I am. He came down and we had the conversation.
Jessica *did* do most of the talking and Eli was really upset. He was sad. It was a hard conversation to have. We did talk about how we had always explained that it was about the spirit of Santa and not the actual man himself. We talked about Saint Nicholas and how the story of Santa came from that (another thing we’ve told him all along), and that Saint Nicholas really WAS real. We also talked about how we hold onto the hope that Santa exists. That even as adults, we still allow for that possibility. And that the spirit of Santa, and the spirit of Christmas can bring people together. That in many ways, we are sure he exists, but maybe not in the way that we’d like him to.
We then talked about learning this is a rite of passage. It’s a sign of getting older. Eli has now graduated to participating by helping to create the magic. It was up to him to help us continue the magic for the younger kids in the house, and when they turn ten, it will be time for them, too.
He had a bunch of questions:
Were the dragon eggs real (he has suspected not for a few months since he found them on etsy a bit ago)?
How about the time he heard bells and boot steps outside his door?
What about the Santa videos he gets every year?
What about the Santa video I (as in me, “Daddy”) got this year?
And a lot more. It was about an hour long and of all the things he was most disappointed about, it was the dragon eggs.
I know that last night was disappointing for him. It was for us as well, but on a different level. Watching your kids grow up is bittersweet. Watching them lose there innocence is the bitter part, and last night was a pretty big dose of that pill. But the flip side of that is that I am so happy to see how inquisitive he is. I am so happy to see him question everything (even his own parents). Despite the loss of innocence, I can see that he has what it takes to grow into not just a functioning adult, but a productive adult. And for that, I’m proud.
There is still a mystery to us all surrounding the bells and boot steps, as well as the Santa video sent to me. So maybe . . .
(He told me he still has no interest in having the “other” talk yet)