When I was about four years old, my evil uncle (who was only five years older than me), gleefully ruined my childhood. Yup, he told me that there was no such thing as Santa. I was devastated. Of course, I was still smart enough at that age not to let on that I knew. In my head, if you didn’t believe in Santa, you wouldn’t get any presents.
My own kids stopped believing at some point in time at the end of their elementary years. I’m not sure exactly when, because like me, they didn’t let on that they were wise to the secret. I would say my son was about ten and my daughter was younger than that because the older
uncle sibling always seems to ruin these things. So the last three years or so have been much easier at Christmas time, simply because we don’t have to pretend.
We don’t pretend that Santa brought presents at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, at the same time he’s bringing gifts to a billion other kids. We don’t have to make sure we wrap all of our other presents in different paper than the “Santa” wrap. We don’t have to fill our own stockings because the kids will ask why we didn’t get gifts—were we naughty??? We don’t have to wait till the kids go to bed to put their presents under the tree. (And of course you have to wait until they are absolutely, positively asleep before you can even think about bringing the gifts down, usually somewhere around 3 am when you can barely stand because you’re so tired—they seem to be on high alert for any noise on Christmas Eve.)
We don’t need to track Santa on the Norad Santa tracker (which actually was kind of fun and I still do it anyway…). We don’t have to get up at the butt crack of dawn on Christmas Day to see what Santa brought us. We don’t have to go nuts coordinating outfits and trying to put tights on a two year old to go see Santa. We don’t have to wait on line at the mall for hours with the other sucker parents, turning various shades of red as their kids claw their way off of Santa’s lap. (Seriously, does any kid from ages 18 months to three years old actually sit on Santa’s lap without screaming bloody murder? My oldest refused from ages two to seven.) We also don’t have to take out a second mortgage to pay for those pictures documenting the trauma they’ve endured at the hands of the scary old man. (Confession time: we never actually took the kids to see Santa at the mall—we’ve always gone to see the free Santas at the firehouse, library, school, etc. You don’t have to wait long, you don’t have to feel bad when your kid refuses to sit on Santa’s lap, and you can take all the horrible pictures you want for free.)
We don’t have to sit with a five year old who wants to write a painstakingly slow letter to Santa. We don’t have to mail that letter and waste a stamp. We don’t have to sit at the computer for hours trying to compose a video from Santa to the children (Who said technological advances were a good thing??? My parents never sent me a video from Santa!)
In a flash, our kids didn’t believe, and this was one less burden off our shoulders at this already burdensome time of year. God…what a relief! But at the same time…it’s heartbreaking. More proof that they’ve grown up so quickly—so much quicker than I thought possible. I miss the joy believing brought to them. The desire to behave, so that they could impress Santa (and later on, his elf spy). The innocence and ability to believe something so incredibly ridiculous could actually be true. Sometimes I wish I had that innocence back. They’re not so innocent or easy to impress any more. I wish I had savored it a little bit back then, not rolling my eyes and wishing that the dreadful Santa years would be over with. Because they are now…along with my sweet and innocent babies who used to believe.