As a mother my main concern is keeping my children safe and healthy—I know I’m not alone with those goals. But like everything, a balance needs to be maintained. Keeping our children safe is no exception. At some point what we protect them from can do more harm than good. A few weeks ago my daughter, out of nowhere started asking for the truth about Santa. My first several reactions were to dodge them like it was my job. I wasn’t ready for that conversation.
After a few failed attempts to learn the facts, my daughter had me to herself. She looked at me with her large blue eyes and said, “Mom, tell me the truth. Do you put all the presents under the tree?”
I had a choice and in those few seconds., I considered them. I could outright lie, or I could give her the answer she was looking for.
Did a large part of me wish that she would think a jolly elf came down the chimney forever?
Is that realistic?
I decided, even though I might not be ready, she was. So I said, “Yeah, I do.”
First, she took a deep breath; then she proceeded to ask a series of questions: Who ate the cookies? Does that mean all the gifts were from us? Then, finally, she asked, “So Santa isn’t real?”
I said, “It’s not quite like that. It’s a tradition that exists because we all want to believe it, and one could argue that as long as it is a tradition that continues, so does Santa. The magic, the love, the warmth, that’s all real.”
For a while she said nothing, she ate the plate of cookies I handed her as I tried my best to navigate this. Finally, she asked, “Where are all my letters to Santa?”
Once I told her I keep all of them in a memory box, she started to cry. So much of me wanted to take it back, and fix it somehow, but when she stopped crying she hugged me, and said, “Thanks for telling me mom. I’d like to help stock the stuffings for my brother this Christmas, if that’s okay.”
Relieved, I told her of course.
Then we continued to sit there and talk, at first about Christmas and then eventually about other things on her mind, like why isn’t everyone kind, or how she wishes that one day she can replace some buildings with trees.
This was a huge learning experience for me as a parent. As our children grow, we have to alter what we do. There is so much pressure on children today, and I think too often kids aren’t dealt with straight. They are trying to figure out the world, and if they don’t have us to come to, what do they have?
I have honestly been dreading this conversation, but now I’m so happy we had it. Ever since that conversation she has been telling me and asking me all sorts of things. Sure, at moments I fight the urge, to tell her not to worry about that or she’s too young, but then I catch myself. Feelings and questions are part of being human. As much as we as parents want to protect our children, we also have to let them grow, and mess up, and get sad.
No one is perfect, and we all have our journey to go on.