Over the weekend my son's school held its annual winter carnival. We ate cookies, drank hot chocolate, listened to carolers and bought some books and crafts. We were headed for the door when I scooped up my 3 year old daughter and asked my son if he was ready to go. Instead, he tugged my coat and looked up at me.
"Mommy, can I go sit with Santa," he pleaded.
I can't help but wonder if this will be the last Christmas he asks me that question. He is 7, or as he is quick to remind me these days, almost 7 and a half. He is going through middle age in the elementary school life cycle: too big to be a little kid and sheltered in that Kindergarten way but too little to hang with the tweens on the cusp of puberty. I also noticed that the only others waiting in line to see Santa at his elementary school were toddlers and preschoolers much closer to his little sister's age. For the record, the 3 year old was terrified and wanted no part of the man in the big red suit.
Now my son is sleeping soundly upstairs as I type. He can read so if I leave this post up on the laptop, the Santa game will most certainly be over. I don't think I am quite ready for it to be over. A major part of what makes the eyes of young children light up about Christmas is believing in Santa and I love seeing those bright, glistening eyes. Who doesn't?
Honestly, I don't think he is quite ready to handle the truth about Santa, not today anyway. As smart as he is, emotionally he is still a little boy who sleeps with a stuffed Elmo and cries when his little sister takes away all of his toys.
He certainly has the capability to put two and two together and figure out the Santa math doesn't add up. He sees the nightly deliveries of large boxes this time of year. I am pretty sure he wasn't entirely convinced last year when we told him Santa could fit through the tiny gas fireplace in the townhouse. Then as I mentioned there is the whole reading thing.
To date we have been able to counter with believable answers. Our explanation for the boxes is they are Christmas presents from all of the out-of-town relatives. My husband grew up in an apartment so a fireplace isn't necessary for Santa; he can always get in another way. We have parental controls on the TV. We don't give him free rein with the computer so he can't find my blog or other ChicagoNow blog posts like this and this on the topic.
But the reality is, I can't control what goes down on the bus and at school where he spends most of the day. He rides the bus to and from school with kids ranging in age from 5 to 12 and believe me, there is minimal adult supervision. One day earlier in the fall the fifth grade girl at our bus stop got off the bus all upset. "Ugh! Those fifth grade boys were swearing on the bus again!"
I started paying attention very quickly. "So, did you tell them to stop?" She replied, "Yes I did but they said they couldn't stop because it was like a disease!"
My advice. "Well, tell them they need to find a cure."
So, it's really not a stretch at all to worry that the older kids on the bus will ruin Santa for the littler ones like my son. Once kids find out the truth about Santa, I know most parents tell them not to say anything especially when there are younger siblings who still believe. However, I have no way of knowing if they will actually listen to their parents. Or, some of these older kids on the bus may be the youngest in the family or are only children who have no incentive not to blow it for my kid or any other kid.
As for adults, in my experience most are pretty good about keeping the secret around kids my daughter's age because she is so little. However, at my son's age it gets a little trickier. It doesn't help he looks older than 7 or 7 and a half. He is already almost as tall as me.
I know one day we will have to have that same talk with my son, reminding him that his little sister who is four years younger still believes in Santa so please, pretty please don't say anything to her. I just hope that talk won't happen this year. I need at least another year to get ready for that.
How did your children find out about Santa and at what age did this happen? Feel free to share with a comment.
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