There I was on Christmas day when my son, Chris was six-years-old and my daughter was three. We were at my divorced & childless sister’s house, where we spent Christmas eve (yes, I DID haul all the presents!) and Christmas.
Chris was mopey. He’d play with gifts, but it was clear that his heart wasn’t in it. Perhaps he was tired, but I had to ask. And his response knocked me on my parenting butt!
“Santa didn’t come! I tried to be a good boy all year” (he WAS very well behaved, except for the black basketball on the ceiling incident!), “But Santa still didn’t bring me the Superman action figure,” he whispered. The tears spilling from his eyes were the size of tablespoons. My gut wrenched. My empathy had me in tears, too.
What was I to do, being a mindful parent who had pledged never to lie to my children? How was I supposed to answer when my ex-husband’s new wife had given Santa gifts last year and I’d chastised her (I chastised my ex, but of course, he HADN’T shopped or wrapped; he had a new wife! And what a good thing that I was totally great with THAT!)
If we’re to be honest, we ruin a childhood fantasy. If we lie, we’ll later be pillaged and used as an example any time our children do something we’ve told them not to do. My own mother would have said “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!” She would have offered NO sympathy nor wisdom, rest her soul.
So, I simply had never mentioned Santa Claus to my children. There weren’t “Santa presents” under the tree. If they ‘asked Santa’ for something, I hadn’t seen the letter, because that WOULD have led to a discussion. It just was a non-issue in our house.
Yep, there I was.
“Oh, Sweet Heart, I told you we couldn’t find that action figure anywhere. You found it in a comic book from when your dad was a child! I told you several times that it wouldn’t be under the tree! I looked everywhere I could!” (Note: Amazon had not yet been invented; neither had eBay)
I took him aside and laid it all out for him. “Do you remember any gifts you’ve ever gotten from Santa? No? Well, honey, while lots of parents find the magic of Christmas is something they can’t explain, I believe the magic of Christmas is love. And I believe honesty is really important. I didn’t want to lie to you.”
Yep, I probably broke his heart. This was a huge parenting moment to me, as (about three years later) was the first time Kate (then Kate-IE) asked if I believed.
By the way, I sent this essay to Chris and asked him if he remembers and wished to comment. He said
I like the post. Sadly (thankfully?) I do not remember this, but it sounds like something a young me could have done.
So what did you learn from it?
(also, is the emphasis on “hadn’t”, or should it be on “he”?)
Always a critic… but, in my humble opinion, a mindful & rather well raised one.
Well, I had learned to be honest, and not necessarily to tell the entire truth.
“Mama, do you believe in Santa Claus?” “Well, Katie, I believe in the magic of Christmas: love.”
Enough about me, how about you? What do you think of our use of Santa Claus? I’d love your comments.
Live Inspired: think boldly; love unconditionally; behave respectfully; act deliberately, kindly, justly, mercifully and humbly; forgive easily; live authentically; laugh frequently!