Christmas without the Big Guy

There is one phrase my kids utter that keeps me up at night. I agonize over it, get sweaty thinking about it, and fill my google search history with questions about it. It fills me with dread and always comes up when I least expect it.

“Mama, is Santa real?”

Santa attitudes and practices vary widely. Obviously, there is a huge chunk of people out there for whom he is a non-issue, as they don’t celebrate Christmas or choose not to introduce the idea of him. I have a good friend who came clean with her very skeptical five-year-old and another close friend whose twelve-year-old still doesn’t definitively know. My own kids have been loyal believers, though given that my oldest turned nine this year, I knew that our Santa days were probably numbered.

Complicating everything, my husband and I are approaching Santa from very different perspectives. I grew up in a cozy central Connecticut bubble where sugarplums danced through my head and I awoke on Christmas morning to a pile of gifts from a jolly guy in a red suit. My husband was born in Cuba, where religious practice was restricted, and Christmas was actually banned from 1969 through 1998. Both of us were concerned about preserving our daughter’s innocence, but while I was trying to avoid crushing her spirit, my husband was more worried about saving her from potential bullying if she believed for too long. Neither of us was wrong.

It happened in a roundabout way, and my husband will deny it when he reads this, but a few weeks ago he kind of just told her. As much as I would like to carefully orchestrate every aspect of our daughter’s life, this was a time when I didn’t have that chance – and I’m ok with that. She cried a lot, which broke my heart. But once she dried her eyes, she told me that she was actually relieved. She is an anxious kid, and I think that being able to put the pieces together and not having lingering questions is probably a comfort to her. I also got to put my two cents in – I told her about this post I saw on Facebook that said that, while Santa may not be real as a physical being, Santa as the idea of giving a gift without expecting anything in return exists in all of us. I told her that she has graduated to being a Santa now, and she loved that.

My major takeaways from this experience:

  1. My kids and I are incredibly privileged to be in a position that allows them to believe in magic and me to create magic for any portion of their lives.
  2. The kid is alright! I can’t protect my daughters from every bad feeling or perfectly plan every moment, and even if I could, it wouldn’t be good for them.
  3. This holiday season is actually way more fun and less stressful with my very own Santa’s little helper.

One thought on “Christmas without the Big Guy

  1. I love this. The letting go of controlling what and how they learn “the truth” is actually kind of a relief. My daughter let me know nonchalantly that she knew the truth during what was going to be a stressful Christmas for us. While I loved the magic and the creativity of the season, I was so relieved to not have to worry about it that year in particular. And it still managed to be a special Christmas for us anyway.


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