Phasing Out Santa

Sometimes while scrolling though posts on Facebook, I can’t help but enjoy the photos that friend’s post of their children. Then the holidays come around and you can just see all of the anticipation in their eyes. Seemingly, a switch has gone off as they help with the Christmas tree, make their lists for Santa, and look forward to latest shenanigan of the Elf on the Shelf. A good friend posted a photo of her two youngsters circling toys in a catalog. Do you remember doing that?

I have so many warm memories of my own childhood, and I relived them through my boys when they were younger. These seemingly insignificant moments that occur year after year…until they don’t. You see, when they’re 17, 16, 15 and 13 years old; there is no more Santa. He gets erased from their minds, and that small part of the innocence of childhood is gone.

We decided to tell them the truth about Santa when they were in 5th grade. They all had the same length of time to believe, and then I had to explain how a physical jolly fat man did not exist. I had to start phasing out Santa.  Well, my oldest was devastated! The story went like this:

“Justin, I want to tell you a story about Christmas. You see, Saint Nicholas was a real person who loved to give gifts to children. He was such a good man, and had such an influence on others that we carry on his tradition. Dad and I are Santa Claus. He lives on through all of the parents who give their children gifts in his name.”

Oh God, that was probably one of the biggest mistakes of my life. Telling this boy the truth about Santa! He immediately began to cry, and yelled out, “YOU RUINED MY BELIEF!” I tried to back pedal a bit and fumbled with my words. I nervously divulged, “you’re still getting that new iPod you want”. It didn’t matter one bit. Then he became angry and said, “Don’t you DARE tell those guys downstairs”, referring to his innocent younger brothers that he wished to shield from this awful truth. I fervently told him that I would not tell the other boys. I hugged him and watched as he emotionally limped out of my room. It was like he was recovering from a near mortal wounding.

I called my husband at work and told him what had happened. He asked, “did you tell him about the Easter bunny too?” Ass. I replied with, “no, I’m saving that for you.” Then I lamented about how he never seems to be home to help me with these things. Thankfully, Easter was a few months away, but Justin already got the picture about the bunny, oh, and the tooth fairy as well.

Now that he’s 17, we actually laugh about his response to being told the truth, and he remembers it like it was yesterday. Although he was seemingly scarred at that time, he sort of jumped on the bandwagon, and reveled in knowing something that his brothers didn’t. When the others would misbehave, he would tell them, “If you don’t clean up your messes, Santa won’t bring you any toys”. Then he would look at me and smile.

As the years went on, and each boy presented himself to me for the Santa story, it became much easier. All of them had a clue, and were just waiting for confirmation from me. Luckily, there were no more emotional outbursts.

We carry on with our other traditions of the Advent wreath and calendar, displaying the manger, and placing the star that one year, my husband sat on and bent, on the top of the Christmas tree. The boys will NEVER let him live that one down. Christmas is, after all, about the birth of Jesus Christ. We share a greater amount of time with family, and form traditions and bonds that will carry on through the generations.

For those of you with little ones, savor these moments, make special memories, and take lots of photos. As I grapple with the thought that my oldest won’t be living here next year, I try to remind myself of all of the future wonderful times we are going to share with each other. Santa was a phase, albeit an enjoyable phase, just like anything in childhood. You think it will last forever, but we know that isn’t true. It comes and goes, but it’s oh so sweet when you’re in the thick of it. Please, take it all in, every minute of it.

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