I like to take my kids to ride CTA Holiday Train. It's an inexpensive bit of holiday entertainment. It's the sort of thing that makes me love living in Chicago. It is not the sort of outing that I thought would expose my kids to discussions about Santa not being real. Unfortunately, some people have no respect for magic.
For those who aren't familiar with the Chicago tradition of the CTA Holiday Train, each year the Chicago Transit Authority transforms one of its elevated trains by covering it inside and out with holiday decorations and lights. Even the seat upholstery is holiday themed. Christmas music plays. Elves hand out candy canes. And, on one special open car, Santa rides on his sleigh. It's an explosion of Christmas magic. It's wonderful.
Our ride was a more crowded than usual because I hadn't realized we were riding the same day as the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. There was a family behind us with some particularly unruly kids and a mother who kept swearing a them. Luckily, my kids were too focused on their candy canes to notice that ugliness.
We rode until we got our fill then exited to catch a normal L train heading back the other way. Our car on our return train was much less crowded. It wasn't empty, but there were many seats available.
It was the type of L car where there are two long rows of seats that face each other across a wide aisle in the center. An older woman sitting across from us asked my kids if they had seen the Holiday Train. They were being a bit shy and were still focused on their candy canes, so I was the one to respond that yes, we had actually just gotten off the Holiday Train.
That woman was across from us but at an angle. Directly across from us was a group of young women who were probably in their early twenties if not their late teens. At least one of them had never gotten a good look at the Holiday Train, so another was explaining it, including the fact that Santa is on it. That led to the problematic discussion.
The group started discussing how they found out Santa wasn't real. One was told by her brother. Another asked her sister. They kept talking about Santa not being real and seemed to have no plan to stop.
I looked at my kids. They were obliviously eating candy canes and staring out the window. They haven't picked up my eavesdropping habit. Still, I couldn't believe these young women (I fight the urge to call them girls) were talking so freely about this subject when there were kids around.
To be clear, I don't think they were maliciously trying to ruin Christmas for my children. They weren't looking over or giggling. They just didn't seem to think at all about this possibly being a sensitive topic to blab about in public.
We live in a society where people demand SPOILER ALERTS before anything even remotely revelatory. Doesn't Santa deserve the same courtesy of discretion as the result of a reality show finale or a plot twist on a hit drama series?
I know not everyone is into Christmas. I know that some people don't like to teach their kids about Santa Claus. That's fine, but in a world that is generally filled with news stories that range from bad to horrible, can't we hold onto something nice? In a country where kids have active shooter drills at school, can't we let them have a little hope that kindness and magic are possible?
I'm not asking for you to believe in Santa (even if I think that if more people believed in Santa the world world probably be a better place). All I'm asking is that you be aware of your surroundings before you discuss your cynical views on the man in the red suit. If children are around, please ix-nay the ot-real-nay talk.*
As for my children, they survived that night with their magic intact. Rather than draw attention to the situation by asking the women to change the subject, I simply moved my kids to the other end of the L car. Belief was fully present when they visited Santa this weekend.
*If you don't believe in Santa AND don't recognize pig latin, I feel bad for your inner child who I fear may have suffocated.
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