Maxi finally asked me outright, “Is Santa real?”
The Boss and I agreed long ago, when we created our family Christmas traditions, that if one of the minxes ever asked outright about Santa that we’d not blatantly lie to them: we’d either distract them if they were very young or it was very close to Christmas (“I think I can hear sleigh bells! Shhh!”) or come clean about the Santa myth if they were old enough or very persistent.
Maxi’s 11. It’s October (this wee bombshell hit on 25 Oct 2017). Moving up to High School this summer with a belief in Santa might be even more socially disadvantaging than just being our kid. OK then…
It’s not like it was completely out of the blue, to be fair. Last year, Maxi had asked me whether Santa was real. I’d replied with my usual, “What do you think?”to play for thinking time, then instead answered her second, back-up question: “Do you make the Santa videos?” I’d admitted that one and explained that Santa was too busy to make an individual reply to every child, so yes, the parents helped. And yes, I’d made the videos. I’d waited for her to re-ask the first Big Question, and I was ready to answer honestly, but she hadn’t.
So: I shut down the laptop, took a deep breath, pulled up my Big Responsible Mum pants and went for it. I asked my usual playing for time question (What do you think?) and half-listened while I frantically thought. I walked her into the living-room, closed the door, and steeled myself to crush the innocence of my firstborn.
Melodramatic? Hahaha. Well, only a bit.
(Recall Old Info) I started by asking her why she thought her parents made the Santa videos every year. She flanneled for a bit, playing for time herself, then eventually said that it was to make her and her sisters feel special and loved and in the middle of some wonderful magic.
Oooh, I think she’s helping me out! This might go ok!
(Analogy) Then I reminded her that Jesus probably did exist a few thousand years ago, and was probably a very, very nice man indeed, and that his ideals and stories had grown eventually into Christianity today.
(Relate to New Info) “In the same way”, I said, eyeballing her, “Santa probably lived once upon a time. He was probably a really lovely, giving man. He may or may not have been truly magic. And in the time ever since, the ideas and stories about him have been cherished and kept alive by parents all over the world who want to make Christmastime as special for their children as it once was in Santa’s day.”
Maxi snuggled into my arms and hid her face from me. Oh-oh…
(Re-state New Info) “So although Santa isn’t a real, live man anymore, he really does have millions of Santa’s helpers, all helping to make his magic come true. Except they’re not actually little elves: they’re parents. We all love our children so very much that we make Santa’s magic happen every year. We’re one huge, big team of Santa’s helpers.”
Her little shoulders shook and she cried. This wasn’t going very well.
(Check Understanding) “And now I think we have our newest recruit – you!” She sobbed. Aw, pants. This really wasn’t going well.
We hugged. I asked her how she felt. She admitted that she’d not been surprised, and that she was glad that I’d told her the truth, but she was sorry to know it.
I recalled how I’d found out about Santa when I’d asked my mum outright, on a dark, frosty 2 mile walk to the shops at night with her, aged 10. Unusually we’d been on our own so I grabbed the chance to ask – she’d probably engineered it! – and how I’d felt crushed and relieved and grown-up and trusted and shattered, all in the same moment.
I spent the next half hour bigging up parents’ role as Santa helpers. Maxi was worried that Christmas had lost its magic. I reassured her that although the innocent specialness of believing in Santa’s magic was finished for her, it wasn’t actually gone – it was just changing into a different kind of magic. I nearly wittered on about the Magic of Giving, but I reigned that whole crock o’ nonsense right in. I explained that she’d still wake up on Christmas morning and not know what she’d been given for Christmas. She’d still get a video from Santa that would make her feel loved. She would still feel excited on the whole run-up to the big day.
She thought for a while. “So do you do the elves?” she asked, smiling mischievously now.
“God, yeah!” I snorted, as her eyes widened. “That’s sooooo much fun! One of the best bits about Christmas”. I told her that she’d also still get to wake up every morning of December and rush out of bed to discover what they’d been up to because no, she absolutely wasn’t a helper on that team.
“Mum, how can you do all that to your house every night?!” she gasped in horror. Hahahahahaha! I didn’t tell her about all the alcohol involved…
We had a long talk about how she should handle her younger sisters asking her whether Santa was real or not – they know I’m a Master of Distraction, and that Maxi never lies. Ever. Mini can imitate the ‘Lying Face’ her family and friends each make when they’re telling porkies, but she stated that Maxi doesn’t have one because she never lies. And she’s right!
I stressed that every parent weaves their own family Santa myth to best fit their children, to make their children’s Christmas as perfect and magical as they possibly could, but how those might vary. We discussed how, as a helper in Santa’s Grotto at the school fair next month, she could start being a Santa helper by being very sensitive to the slightly different family traditions and not give the game away.
Finally, Maxi asked who ate the mince-pie left out on Christmas Eve. She was quite crest-fallen when I told her that it wouldn’t be her; she was only a brand new Santa Helper and that this year, if she showed great promise, she might be allowed to nibble the carrot. Me and The Boss hate that part, so wahey, that’s the silver lining in this child’s milestone cloud!
And the title of this post? Well, fast-forward to minute 3:04 of the Proclaimers’ video and listen to the end. That was my earworm as I sat and told The Boss later what I’d just done, and that it was his job next time!