I was making dinner tonight when Ryan, who will be 8 next month, walked into the kitchen and asked flat out, “Mom, is Santa real?” I froze. I had no warning or idea this was going to be a question that needed to be answered for a few years at least, let alone right now. A million thoughts flashed through my mind in the few seconds it took me to process his question. The biggest one of course was, ‘What am I going to tell him?’
I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, where we didn’t celebrate holidays, Christmas included. My parents at the time, told me flat out Santa was a lie parents told their children. The “church” also pointed out that “Santa” rearranged is “Satan.” I never received gifts from Santa, and never faced the question if he was real. My parents relaxed some of their views years later, my mom even left the religion and we celebrated a few very happy Christmases before she passed away. But, I realized I was never left an example to fall back on regarding how and what to tell a child about Santa.
Since I never was allowed to celebrate Christmas as a child, I have lived it for the first times, mainly through the eyes of my children. Christmas has been some of the happiest times and best memories I have so far of the boys. It is magical. The excitement they have when they see the presents Santa has left for them under the tree- there is nothing like it.
I also think, part of the excitement is in realizing there is something good and positive which is “bigger” than them, at work. I think it fills their hearts with a sense of security in knowing there is this nice man who just brings good kids presents. It is simple- simple for young children to accept and believe. Not so simple as the children get older.
I asked Ryan if he believed Santa was real, and he said, “No.” I quickly tried to relay the idea of Santa , before Cole came downstairs and heard. I tried to tell him Santa is everywhere if you believe. He started to cry in frustration. I told him we would talk about it after dinner, when Cole was playing.
I thought about all through dinner and asked my friends on Facebook for advice. After dinner, I took him in my room, shut the door, and cuddled with him on my bed. I still didn’t really know what to say, but sometimes all you can do is follow what your heart tells you. I took a deep breath, and told Ryan I had something to tell him about Santa. I told him it was only for him to know right now, and he couldn’t tell Cole, or any other kids at school.
His face lit up. So far so good. I told him Christmas is a magical time of year when we all get reminders of love. One way people do that is by giving each other gifts. I told him Santa helps the parents give gifts to their children. He asked, “So you are Santa?”
I didn’t want to lie to Ryan but I didn’t want to quash his hopes and belief in the good Santa stands for. In an instant it became clear to me and I said, “We are all Santa, Ryan. The parents help Santa with presents and Santa helps the parents. Santa is the good, magical, and love in all of us, and this gets shown so much at Christmas. Santa needs all of our help to do this everyday, but especially at Christmas.”
He looked a little confused and I continued, “Do you know how happy you feel when you help me, or do something nice for Cole?” He told me yes. “Well, you are being like Santa when you do these things. You are giving to people, and that is what Santa is all about. So I think he is very real, because if you look for him, you will see him every day, not just at Christmas.”
He said he felt better and I told him he was old enough now to be trusted with this. I told him little kids like Cole though, don’t think of all the questions he has, so this year he gets to help Santa with Cole.
He smiled and gave me a hug, and I told him once more before we opened the door, that this was an important thing to know, and Santa was counting on him now. He said he knew, nodded his head, and off he went to play with Cole.
I realized later tonight, in the almost seven years since my baby had his first Christmas, it itsn’t entirely up to me anymore to have him believe in Santa. He is becoming his own person, with his own ideas and thoughts. He will have to decide for himself what he thinks about Santa.
I hope some of what I told him, helped him get a grasp that Santa may not be an actual guy in a red suit, with reindeer, who comes down a chimney. I think that was the part he was having a hard time believing. But I hope it opened up to him the ideas of what Santa really is, if he believes.