I am a Christmas lover. My house is fully decorated on the inside by early November, I have a tree in every room (including at our hunting camp), and am known for going overboard on the holiday in every way possible. It is generational and some of my most cherished memories come from the holiday season. Attending midnight mass with my Mamaw and Papaw and admiring their beautiful decorations (which now sit in my house). My Dad’s over the top Christmas lights every year that he still puts up and sitting around his living room together. I work hard to keep the Christmas spirit alive and continue on our traditions with our kids. I love the magic & joy, there is just nothing better.
The day that I dreaded for almost twelve seasons came last week, and I am just emotionally recovering enough to talk about it. I know that seems dramatic, but I know parents will relate. The time for the “Santa talk” had arrived with my oldest.
We were on our way to school Friday morning, and I started talking with my 8 & 11 year old about Christmas. I told them they both needed to make their lists for Santa before Thanksgiving, that way he can get working on them.
“Mom, you know how I know Santa isn’t real? Last year Santa brought me Barbies and when I gave them all away you made a comment about it being $100 worth of Barbies. If Santa brought them for me, how you would know that? Hmm?”
At this point I am asking myself why my daughter decided to wake up and choose to create chaos at 7:30 in the morning. Why, why, whyyyy? I immediately wonder if I had said that (I probably did, let’s be real) but am reeling over the fact that she has been just waiting to drop this bomb till this moment. I glance in the rearview mirror to see my son’s face, all scrunched up with a look of disgust. I don’t even have to come up with an answer, because my real life Buddy The Elf quickly jumps to Santa’s (and my) defense.
“Mila, of course Santa is real! Mom probably just said that because Barbies are expensive at the store. Mila, you know Santa is real, come on, don’t say that!” The conviction in his little voice, the look on his face. Rex luckily believes that much in his heart he didn’t give her words a second thought. Meanwhile, I am now glaring at her with my say-one-more-thing-and-you-are-so-grounded eyes in my mirror and she is realizing the error of her ways. “Of course Santa is real buddy, don’t listen to your silly sister!” He continues on saying that he has proof, because St. Nicholas was real. I dropped them off at at school and was relieved, but only momentarily.
I felt the tears well up in my eyes as I went over the bridge home. I knew the time was coming – sixth grade has been the grade of all the talks apparently. But this one hit me in my heart. I thought back to all the wonderful Christmases that I’ve gotten to enjoy with her. Screaming excitedly as she ran to Santa, singing carols with her in the car, coming up with the craziest things I could for their elves, her wonderment on Christmas morning. I still see her as that little girl running down the hallway in a princess nightgown, excitedly ripping into her baby dolls and new toys. I am of course crying again even as I write this, it felt like it was marking the end of a very special era.
My son, however, is a Christmas fanatic and true believer still at 8. He typically starts watching the movies in July, and goes full blown Kevin McCallister the minute Halloween ends. He had me taking down the tree on November 1st this year and is talking about when the elves are going to show back up. I knew by his face in the car, I couldn’t risk her saying anything else. The time has come for the talk.
I picked them up at my usual 3:15 that day, and in my true Virgo nature, I had well thought out bullet points in my head of what I was going to say to her. Rex grabbed a snack and the dog and headed out back like he does most afternoons, and I knew I had my chance.
“Mila, I want to talk to you about what you said this morning in the car. About Santa.” She looked up, taken aback that I was bringing it up. “You said that he isn’t real this morning, is that what you think?”
“I don’t know Mom. I want him to be real but I am starting to think that he’s not. I think it’s you and Dad.”
My heart shattered into a billion pieces and I felt the tears start to fill my eyes again. She could see my emotion and hugged me. “Mils, Santa isn’t necessarily a real person in the sense that he comes to our house and brings you gifts. You are right, Mom and Dad are the ones that bring the gifts, I am sorry that I have to tell you that.” She looked up at me, now with tears in her eyes, and hugged me tighter. “But Mom, I wanted to still believe.”
“Mila. Why do you think that Mom puts up 6 Christmas trees each year? I do that because Christmas is in your heart. It is magic. Santa is all that is good and pure in this world, and that is what the magic in believing is. I still believe, and that is why I enjoy this time of year so much and making it special for the people I love, especially you guys. It isn’t about the gifts, it’s about the joy and spending time with the ones you love. So now that you know what the true meaning and magic of Santa is, you have to help me keep that alive for your brother, because he still believes.”
We chatted for a while more, and she admitted to me she was hanging on for not only her, but for me as well. She got excited thinking about how she could make these next couple years special for her little brother, and all of the sudden she was filled with a whole new type of magic – grown up magic. My heart grew three sizes as I realized that while we may be stepping out of one season, a new exciting one is also starting: Santa just gained a helper.
Since then I had to actually remind her to tone it down some as she is now working double time on team Santa. I also got that list I had asked for: full of makeup, Lululemon, Starbucks, and not a single toy. My heart ached for a second again until I saw something that made me beam with pride: she itemized each item and put a price right next to it.
She gets it. She’s going to make a perfect Santa one day.