There’s so very little magic left in the world. Such small droplets of innocence floating around waiting to land on just the right sweet child. So why should I break my tween’s heart, and finally answer truthfully when he asks me, ‘Is Santa real?’
For the past three years or so, my 12-year-old has posed probing questions just as the mince tarts and tinsel start to appear on the shelves. Sometimes he’ll phrase them in an offhand way, so as not to draw too much attention to the subject.
Him: “The kids at school say Santa’s not real.”
Me: “Yeah? Which kids?” Deflect, deflect!!
Him: “Just kids.” Such a tween answer.
Me: “Well, what do you think?”
Him: “I dunno, mum. I mean, how does he get to every single house. How does he make every single toy?”
Me: “You know … it’s sad for those kids. They don’t believe. Remember, Santa’s all about believing. If you believe, the magic happens.”
It’s the same answer I give each year. A little vague and wishy washy, a whole lot of deflection riding on a wing and a prayer. But how long do I keep up the ruse?
I remember my very first Christmas as a mum. He was only nine-months-old. Way too young to remember any of what was happening. But we did the lot – Santa visit and photo, milk and cookies, snowy footprints, handwritten letter. And we’ve kept it going every years since.
But it gets me thinking, do we do all this for our kids or for ourselves?
I like to think it’s a bit of both. Yes, it makes us feel warm and fuzzy, but the reason is the joy it brings to our children. The wide-eyed surprise when they see fresh presents laid under the tree on Christmas morning. The giggles as they spot how many carrots the reindeer ate. This type of pure happiness can’t be bad, can it?
He’s now 12 years old. Right on the cusp of becoming a teen. Heading to high school next year. And with a good deal of cynicism about so many things in the world now. But this one thing, we’re still holding onto it.
I’ve had people recommend we break the news gently to him before he starts high school. For fear he’ll be ridiculed, or have his heart broken by someone who finally lays out the truth in all its innocence-shattering glory.
And then there’s his younger sibling to consider. Will he be able to help keep the secret for his little brother? Or will it come blurting out in the middle of a brotherly dust up?
Perhaps I’m holding onto the Santa secret for fear of letting go. He’s currently straddling that precarious world between still being my little boy, and becoming a man-child. It’s just one more thing I have to let go of as he grows up, and if I’m honest, it makes my heart ache for the chubby-cheeked innocence of his baby and toddler years.
My other fear is grappling with his inevitable realisation that I, as his mother, has been lying to him for his whole life. But my instinct tells me that he’s a smart kid, he’ll understand that this lie was not malicious. It wasn’t intended to deceive in a hurtful way. I hope he’ll get it.
Maybe if I do finally have ‘the talk’, he’ll be relieved. He’ll tell me that he knows. That’s he’s known for a long time, but he didn’t want to break the spell.
As Christmas creeps closer, and the questions are no doubt brewing, I’m pretty sure I’ll do what I’ve always done when it comes to mothering. I’ll just feel it.
If it feels like the right time to finally lift the lid on the truth, then so be it. And I’ll let him become part of the next stage of the journey. To become the custodian of the Santa secret for his little brother, and eventually his own children.
When do you think is the right age to let kids in on the Santa secret?