Last November I wrote about the sadness I felt that the tradition of Santa Claus would be coming to an end soon in my home. We managed to make it through Christmas of 2014 with my youngest, then 10 years old, still believing. He was already older than most children who had stopped believing in the magic and if you knew this little boy, you would understand why. His entire existence is built on imagination and fantasy. A talent he hopes to use as a screenwriter and director when he grows up.
Throughout it all though, my older son kept pulling me aside and insisting that I tell his brother the truth!
The Truth? Well, what the hell is the truth? Isn't the truth anything we care to believe?
OK, ok - I'll get my own head out of the clouds.
So as we grew closer and closer to the official holiday season of 2015, with my younger son still believing, and my older son still giving me "the look" I started researching the situation online. Normally children start questioning things on their own, piecing things together and then realizing "the truth" (again with the stupid word). But I admit I was beginning to panic that the longer this facade continued, the worse the impact of "the truth" would have on my son. I knew I would have to tread lightly.
I found some useful information, validations that the entire Santa Claus tradition, in fact, has it's benefits to children. According to experts, the belief in Santa teaches our children to have faith in things they cannot see or touch - a skill that is "important throughout life as they learn to believe in themselves, their friends, their talents, and their family." One article, or maybe it was a Pinterest post, said it helps them "believe in something [they] can't measure or even hold in [their] hand - love, that great power that will light [their] life from the inside out, even during the darkest,coldest moments."
WOW - pretty deep, huh?
As we approached Thanksgiving, my young son, now 11 years old, expressed to me his excitement that his Elf on the Shelf would be arriving this week. And, the chore I was putting off all these months, of telling him "the truth," hit me like a ton of bricks. I decided to pull up the sample letter I had pulled off the Internet a few years ago (and quoted above) and had saved as "THE Letter." I tweaked it a bit because I wanted to add the history of Saint Nicholas - which to me is extremely important - and even included a copy of an old newspaper clipping I found online. I took Noel the Elf out of his box where I carefully stored him for eleven months, folded the letter and clipping into an envelop and tucked it under his arm. On the envelop I wrote, "Do not open. Bring this to mommy."
I know this is going to sound weird, but I did that for two reasons. One) because I wanted him to be with me when his spirits were broken by what I was now referring to as "the damn truth" and Two) because it gave me one final chance to change my mind and not show him the letter - after all, it WAS addressed to me.
At 6:00am, he stumbled into my room, saw his Elf on my nightstand with the aforementioned envelop in his arms and right there - in that split second - my heart broke. He "woke" me up (little did he know that I had been awake starring at that envelop most of the night, even getting up and removing it at one point.) I sat up, acted surprised, and then - as he handed me the envelop - I took a deep breath.
I tore it open and read the letter - yes, I f*cking read the letter to myself in its entirety, the letter I WROTE - and then, looked up into his innocent eyes for one last time and said, "Baby, come sit next to mommy." I handed him the letter and watched his face as he read it, watched as the innocence left his soul for the last time. He finished the letter, looked at me with his now ghost-white face, and said, "Oh, so you lied?" Do you want to talk about a knife going into a mother's heart?
Now, with him cuddling next to me, I said, "No, baby, this doesn't change who Santa is and what he stands for. Santa is alive in our hearts and our souls. The belief in Santa and ALL the magic he represents is the essence of humanity." I then read him the newspaper clipping, which I thought would be difficult for him to understand, yet, once again, I underestimated his old soul. He loved it and it gave him comfort, which is why I am sharing it with you.
Throughout the day, he asked me some questions about the tradition as he tried to make sense of it all - the realization that mommy and daddy bought the presents (the funny thing was he apologized for always choosing the most expensive LEGO set for Santa to bring), that daddy and, in more recent years, his older brother ate the cookies that he left out for Santa, and the hardest one, that his Elf, Noel, was nothing more than a toy doll. "So, mom, who replied to all the letters I wrote to Noel?" he asked. "Oh," he replied looking into my eyes.
That night when I was tucking him into bed, we spoke one last time about the revelation of the day. I explained how difficult the decision to tell him had been for me. He asked why. "Because, my baby is all grown up now."
As I stood to walk out of his room, he called, "Mom! If I continue to write letters to Noel, um, will you answer them?"
"Oh, absolutely, my love. Absolutely."