I knew that it would happen eventually – and I knew it was coming. At 10 (going on 25!), I knew that my son’s unwavering belief in Santa was coming to an end…or at least there were seeds of doubt in his mind.
In the early part of the summer, my son “A” and I were having a discussion about myths…and Santa Claus came up. He was testing me – wanting to know what I would say about Santa. But I wasn’t going to let him off the hook so easily, so I explained that Santa represents the magic of Christmas – the good in all of us to give unselfishly and that in doing kind acts you can create miracles (like being able to travel around the globe in a sleigh pulled by reindeer). I think he liked that answer, and honestly, I don’t think he wanted to give up the idea of Santa either – it’s just too much fun to leave out cookies and milk and wake up to a pile of presents under a twinkling Christmas tree!
But something happened last week that tipped me off that he’s letting the myth go. I asked him to write his Christmas wish list, which, in years’ past, has started with “Dear Santa,” and reinforced that he’s been very good all year long, and the entire page was decorated with illustrations of Santa, presents, stars, trees, and other scribbles. This year, he used the date/name/subject heading that he uses on schoolwork – no drawings, no testament to good behavior or consistent instrument practice, – no “Dear Santa.”
And when I brought this to his attention he looked at me and looked away – almost as if I had caught him scribbling on a wall with a Sharpie. “Um, oh, I hadn’t even noticed…I just wrote my list.” Then, we just let it go. There’s no need to have a lengthy discussion about his belief in old Saint Nick, we both know that he realizes that mom and dad are the ones hammering out the gifts – not a pack of elves.
It makes me feel a little sad. I feel like his innocence is slipping away. At the cusp of turning eleven and getting ready for middle-school next year, this is just another step in the process of growing up. As a mother, it’s exciting and wonder-full to see my child growing and developing into a ‘tween and coming into his own, but there’s also some longing for that tiny baby that I rocked and nursed, and the toddler who eagerly held my hand, or the pre-schooler – eager to learn and so ready for Kindergarten.
But there’s something else too. With each stage and step he’s learning – discovering what’s real and meaningful – even when reality is not so kind and gentle. But although he is saying goodbye to childhood, I feel that I’ve instilled in him a sense of magic, a belief that that darkness can be overcome with the light of love and kindness – and I hope that will cushion him when the world is (inevitably) unkind.