When You Want to Believe

Mom, some kids say Santa’s not real. They say he’s really just your parents. From his tone I knew this was a question without a question mark, an eight year old’s way of testing the Santa Claus waters.

I paused from my work of tucking him in. His four year old brother sat up in his bed, suddenly awake.

My eight year old and I have danced this dance several times. He has tiptoed toward asking directly and I’ve done grand jetes over the truth. Like all mothers do with their firstborn, we know how to avoid stepping on each other’s feet. We’re gentle with each other, protective. We know where the lines are drawn and are careful not to cross them.

But there are lines that are meant to be crossed. Slowly. Eventually. I can’t help but to want to keep him on the magic side of the line he’s straddling.

As parents our job is to constantly assess how much information our children need. How will they react? What are the benefits? What do the experts say? And just as this set of questions isn’t specific to the magic of Santa Claus, the idea of when to face the realities of life isn’t unique to childhood.

There is a space between knowing the truth and wanting to believe it. 

In my life I’ve done battle with unwelcome realities of my own. The disconnect between who people really are and who they show themselves to be. The cold hard facts of life. The secrets and cover-ups and the ugliness that lies just beneath the surface.

I’ve wanted to wrap myself in the security blanket of denial and pretend to unknow. The problem, I’ve found, with facing facts is that they almost always require action. Change. Pain. Growth.

And like the boy who wants to believe, who says he’s seen Santa’s handwriting and It’s different from yours and Daddy’s, I’m left reeling. Off-kilter. Looking for something constant, solid.

We’re both looking for the kind of magic that doesn’t go away when you get too big.

*  *  *  *

I sat down at the foot of his little twin bed, his brother still listening intently, waiting for me to break the silence.

You know better, huh?

He still wants to believe. And so do I.



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  1. the5parkers says:

    Good answer! :) My oldest is 9, so I can relate. We still want to believe too! Enjoyed reading. :)

  2. angela says:

    What a good answer for now :) Wanting to believe is such a big part of it. When he is ready, and “figures it out”, I’ve always loved the “yes Virginia” column. My mom laminated it and keeps it with her Christmas things, and it always gives me such a warm feeling inside.

  3. Yvonne says:

    I am 24& my brother is 19. Up until last year, we got presents from Santa. My mom still tells us every year that Santa is real. Obviously, we know the truth but we still keep the Santa tradition alive. It’s sweet& his gifts to us have gotten much less numerous but he still plays a hand in at least one gift under the tree every year!
    Yvonne recently posted..JoeyMy Profile

  4. Sweet, poignant post, written so beautifully and with such love. I still remember the moment that I found out that Santa wasn’t real. It was one of those moments when a little magic in your life dies and your know it will never return. I, too, was always given gifts signed by “Santa”, and even “knowing” it always made them feel a little more special.
    I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!
    joan

    p.s. thank you so much for leaving your “calling card” and for your sweet note.
    for the love of a house recently posted..please leave your calling card…My Profile

    • ML@My3LittleBirds says:

      Hi Joan- so nice of you to visit My 3 Little Birds. I love that you remember finding out about Santa. It’s a bittersweet memory, I’m sure.

  5. Melanie says:

    I love this post. This is one of the many things I’ve thought about since I’ve become a mom. Nathaniel is a long way off from this day (he doesn’t even know who Santa is at this point), but it’s nice to see how other moms handle this dilemma.

  6. An awkward confession. I can’t wait until my daughter (who has chosen to believe the Santa thing – we told her the truth early on) chooses to go for the truth again. Santa is a nightmare of tangled feelings for me, most of them connected with my Mom’s unwillingness to let go and just tell me. Or even ask “well, what do you think?” I kind of like your open ended question that leaves him room to consider what’s going on.
    Jessie Powell recently posted..Real danseurs don’t wear underpantsMy Profile

  7. I love hearing how different family “do” Santa… we don’t “do” Santa at our house.

    Merry Christmas!!
    - Ashley Pichea
    Ashley Pichea recently posted..31 Days to Pray for Your SpouseMy Profile

  8. Meagan Frank says:

    I’m with you… and your son. I want to believe in who Santa represents. Someone who has endless generosity, knows us wholly (the good and the bad), loves us anyway, appears when we need it most, can do it without getting much credit. Santa does exist…in the hands of those who help him, in the hearts of those who benefit from his love, and in the innocent eyes of the kids who know him best. Great post! MMF
    Meagan Frank recently posted..My Story is a Sports StoryMy Profile

  9. I got a little lump in my throat reading this. Your tenderness in mothering your children is beautiful, my sweet friend. I’m pretty sure my oldest has made the transition from believing to liking-to-believe. It’s really magical to know that she knows, but that she values his spirit enough to embrace the tradition still. So very sweet…
    Dwija {House Unseen} recently posted..Thank God Life isn’t FairMy Profile

  10. Kelli @ No. 7 says:

    I’d call it bittersweet but there’s nothing sweet about learning or suspecting the world isn’t quite as magical as you thought. That news – that Santa might not exist- that rocked my little world. We should all stretch the magic for as long as we can. Childhood moves so quickly. Especially with the first. I love that photo of Theo.

  11. Grace says:

    We have the little dance at our house, and mine are older than yours (13 and 10). I’m fairly sure they know the truth (they asked me, as young as 4, maybe, why we were buying Christmas presents for kids from Ebenezer–Doesn’t Santa bring them gifts? At which point, we made a big deal about Santa only bringing little things for the stockings and explaining how some people won’t get much in the way of presents without help from other families…), but we wink-wink-nod-nod say, “Santa brings things to children who believe in Santa.”

    My mother was an elementary school teacher and had some children come to her and ask her about the realness of Santa. She asked them if they wanted her to tell her the truth, and she did, because they said yes. Some parents FREAKED out about it. But she said that she wanted them to know that if they asked her for the truth, they would get the truth. I suggested, later, that she might have soft-pedaled it a bit more (you know, “well, Santa lives in our hearts” sort of answers…)
    Grace recently posted..Free pattern for the Crocheted Flower Hats!My Profile

  12. I always had a hard time as a teacher when some kids felt the need to ‘tell’ everyone else…so unkind! I would gloss over the whole thing and talk about how I believed in a sweet and generous guy…
    Childhood Myths recently posted..Christmas Share – Day 21My Profile

  13. Mamawolfe says:

    Then believe! My son is the same way. No matter what we or anyone says he still believes. And I live it that way.
    Mamawolfe recently posted..When You Wish Upon A StarMy Profile

  14. It is interesting how different families have different ideas about Santa. I can never really remember “believing” in Santa and we did not really have the whole Santa thing in our house with our boys. It was just something that happened and we focused on the birth of Christ. Not sure if we cheated the boys or not but they seem okay with it. I totally think that every family needs to decide how to present Santa and that believing in Santa is a great way to add magic and mystery to an already wonderful event. I am glad that I did not have the pressure of the Elf on the Shelf thing with our boys tho—I think it might have put me over the edge!!! Merry Christmas!
    Beth Ann Chiles recently posted..Wrapping UpMy Profile

  15. Amber says:

    There is a space between knowing the truth and wanting to believe it.

    Oh so true, ML.

  16. Kyria says:

    I still believe! My best friend’s brother told me there was no Santa and I fought him! Then I went home and told my mom that he had lied to me! I don’t remember what she said. It’s bound to happen but darn it, it needs to last as long as possible!
    Kyria recently posted..Grab a Mulled WineMy Profile

  17. Kathy says:

    I loved this post! I recently did a post on when I learned the truth and I have to say even though I asked my mom for the whole truth I really expected her to say yes, there is! My own son asked me when he was 6! I asked him what he thought and he said it just was not logical!! How could Santa get to that many places at one time. The funny thing is even though he knew the truth he always acted like he totally believed in Santa and I loved that about him. That one night a year he still likes to believe even though he is 13 and has known the truth for years you would never know it on Christmas Eve!! Enjoy your holiday with your family!! It’s great to find your site again on voiceBoks!!
    Kathy recently posted..O Christmas TreeMy Profile

  18. Jodi Aman says:

    I told my kids the truth from the beginning and they still decided to believe. But in the same way I do. They always ask me, “Do you believe in Santa?” I say I don’t know but I believe in the idea of Santa!

  19. Touching post! Even I, at my age, still want to believe in something magical. When my kid starts to ask about Santa Claus, I’ll just tell her that the spirit of Santa is real, but he’s not a real person. Oh, who am I kidding! It’s going to be difficult breaking the news to her…

  20. Rachel says:

    Loved this, as mom to an 8 year old boy. Thank you! We’re in the believing zone, but this year he’s made more mention of all the fake Santas out there…

  21. Anna says:

    I still manage to persuade my 3 kids that Santa is real! Once I even dress like a Santa:):) I think that we all need to believe in something, and why not in such a good and generous person like Santa!
    Anna recently posted..dentist londonMy Profile

  22. Aggie says:

    A sweet and well written post. Thank you. I want to keep the magic alive for my 7 yo & 4 yo for as long as possible.

  23. jetts31 says:

    I literally just posted an article about this exact same thing. I think you wrote it and answered it much better than I did. I think you did the right thing for your son.
    This was my take:
    http://foundingafather.com/2011/12/29/letting-her-in-on-the-secret/

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