Everything is happening sooner than I anticipated.   The holidays popped up without notice and no true transition from fall to winter ever occurred.  But that’s Wisconsin for you, just when you pull out your leather knee-high boots, dust off your favorite cardi and iron your plaid button-down, winter will hit like a blizzard on Halloween.  Literally, Madison WI broke the record for snowfall this past October. The kid’s costumes were unrecognizable after they layered on snow pants, a down coat, and boots.  That is a mandatory dress code when your strolling for candy at a temperature of 20-degrees.  

Winter came on fast and with it, another year has passed. Santa Baby I need you to slow it down. A lot has changed within the year and that became crystal clear when I observed the contrasting prospectives of my kids. One enamored by the rituals of the holiday, the other inquisitively stumbling over the logistics of that sleigh.

The truth about santa

Where’s Bradley?  The hunt for the ELF

         Misha, our youngest has been a joy to watch this season.  She has an infectious enthusiasm for the festivities.  Before we’ve had a chance to roll over and spoon, here she comes barreling through our bedroom door.  Immediately flicking on the light to show us the charm she retrieved from her advent calendar, she loudly asks “Guess where I found Bradley.”  Bradley is our elf on the shelf (gift from grandma the first year it came out) whom they’ve affectionately given their father’s middle name.  Her tiny voice is sweet with a hint of a lisp.  The wave of her energy delights my soul but this alarming wake-up call is not going to work with my beauty sleep regimen.  Definitely not for the duration of the holiday month.  

The most wonderful time of the year!

I secretly love when they finally conceptualize the significance of an event.  Be it a vacation, their birthday or in this case Christmas.  You can measure their anticipations by the level of interrogation they give on the timeline and the details.  

  • “When are we going to Granny’s?”  
  • “How many days do we have left of school?” 
  • “How long will it take us to get there?” 
  • “Who puts gifts in our stockings?”

         It’s a kind of wonder for the unknown that I can no longer relate to.  I’m the scheduler of this house.  The only thing I wonder is if it’ll be my turn to hide that damn elf tonight.  We will both finish brushing our teeth, my face is washed and my hair is tied.  We are propping our pillows and getting deeply comfy in our king bed when we’ll realize we have forgotten to move the damn elf.  The negotiation begins, with us swatting each other’s legs as if we can tag the other parent it!  I’ve woken out of a dead sleep in sweats because it slipped my mind after a glass too many wines.  Still, to see her light up for the hunt is adorable.  She even chose an elf print nightgown that is straight out of The Brady Bunch this year from Kohls.  I’ll admit I tried to talk her out of it but she was set on that nighty set complete with a matching doll gown and it has grown on me.

Is Santa Real?

         It was an abrupt start to winter but the rapid onset of the season is keeping pace with the rhythm of our lives.  Time keeps on slipping.  I did not foresee this being the year we would be having the talk about Santa with Gigi.  She is nine years old and swiftly turning into a tween. On a car ride home from drama class in November, Giana told James that kids at school had begun to tell her that Santa was not real.  My husband skirted the question but admitted to her, that Santa likely uses parents as helpers.  Later that month on a visit to the tree farm we frequent annually, her suspicions were again peaked. 

 As we approached the barn Santa met us in the threshold, asking if we wanted a picture by the sled?  He was not in the picture; it was as if, even he knew he didn’t fit the build to be a Santa.  Once I prompted him to ask the girls what they would like for Christmas, he slipped up and pulled his fake beard away from his face for a quick itch.  It was a swift ordinary movement.   Still, my girls caught it and told us so, once we reached the car.   “Santa took off his beard, he isn’t the real Santa is he?”

The Talk 

We decided it was time.  James reasoned that we would rather our oldest know the truth from us than to think her peers were giving her valid information and we were being deceptive.  I did what I always do, research on how to explain it.  I found this Becoming a Santa Method cited in multiple articles.  We decided to go that route. 

 The Santa Strategy

The strategy is to not crush their sweet souls but rather to recruit them to take on the role of the giver.  We never uttered the words “Santa is not real.”  Instead, we followed the script:  

  1. We noted her growth, both physically, emotionally & mentally, “your heart has grown too”
  2. Then, we acknowledge the doubts about Santa from rumors to encounters that may have been less than impressive.
  3. Next, we cited a couple of examples of her showing kindness throughout the year.
  4. We told her the true meaning of Christmas is to give and to do so unselfishly.
  5. Finally, we enlisted her to carry on the Christmas Spirit by becoming a Santa herself.  She was tasked to observe someone who may not have all their wishes come true this season, figure out what they want or need and choose a gift for them.  The gift must be anonymously delivered.
  6. We stressed that she can never reveal that she is the “Santa”.  Hence, give without expecting or wanting anything in return.  Not even praise.  We also told her the kids at school who tell other kids there is no Santa aren’t ready to become a part of the magic.

Santa Baby, please slow down!

In addition to the advice given in the HuffPost article, we added an opportunity for her to ask any questions she had at the end of our talk. Much of the talk is implied rather than straight forward.  Fortunately, she was so amped to select a gift and a gift recipient that her focus had shifted from the unveiling of Santa to the selection process.  James and I felt relieved that our talk went so well. We just marveled at her as she rambled off the names of family, friends, and neighbors that she was considering.  

It is quite possible that letting go of the make-believe magic of Santa is harder for the parents than the child.  I shed a small, tear as I read the article in preparation for the conversation.  Although it will be rewarding to have Giana’s help in the future prep for the season, it is heart-wrenching to admit she is growing up so quickly.