The Myth Is Over, But The Magic Remains

This is it, I thought to myself. I just had this feeling the moment was upon me. But I never would have guessed Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to be the impetus for the conversation.

On the television screen was a warehouse full of mall Santas in various costumed states, running an underground knockoff toy ring. Jim Belushi was trying to con Schwarzenegger, the desperately gift-less father, into buying a cheap replica of Turbo Man for his son.

So many Santas. So many obviously fake Santas. I could sense my daughter recognized the perfect moment of opportunity.

“Mom?”

She is eight years old, after all…she’s only eight years old, though.

“Are you and dad really Santa?”

Okay, you’ve planned for this. Just remember your script.

“Well, honey. What do you think?”

She paused for a moment.

“I think yes. Because there are things I’ve asked for that Santa never brought, and I noticed they were all really expensive things.”

I couldn’t argue with that logic. And just like that, I was the mother of my first non-believer. It was something I had previously looked to with a mixture of sadness and dread. In fact, last year my husband and I went to completely ridiculous lengths to keep her believing in Santa by means of some bait-and-switch email tactics and an “accidental” wireless signal outage. I wasn’t ready then for her to have one more toe in the world of reality and the harsh light it sometimes casts. I didn’t want the magic to end for her.

Yet when she did finally learn the truth about Santa just weeks ago, I did not see the face of a little girl whose holiday had just crumbled, or of one who felt betrayed, or of one who now suddenly saw the world with faithless eyes. As she and I snuggled under covers, watching a cheesy 90’s Christmas movie, I realized no magic had died for her. It simply had a new maker.

The fact that Santa is not a real person will not change the way we celebrate Christmas. We will still make lists, still bake cookies, still receive gifts, and still watch for reindeer in our backyard.

The only difference is that now she will know her dad and I will be the ones checking those lists, eating the cookies, giving the gifts, and the “reindeer” are really the same wild antlered deer that roam all year round. She will realize the magic she has felt every year of her life does not come from some elusive stranger who bestows the same treatment on every single child in the world, but that it exists in her everyday life and comes from the two people who love her more than anyone else. And we create it only for her and her brother. No one else.

I will admit I feel a certain satisfaction in knowing credit will finally be given where credit is due. I’m not so naive to think my eight-year-old will immediately and fully appreciate our efforts to make Christmas a special time for her and her brother. However, I do know the time will come when she understands that the reason her dad and I put a little more on our plates and take a little more out of our pockets during this time of year is because we want her life to be built upon the story of happy memories…in just the way our parents did for us, and their parents did for them.

It is the same reason Arnold Schwarzenegger battles Sinbad the mail carrier to the near death on a Christmas parade float for a Turbo Man, all to appease his son’s fleeting desire. We want our kids to one day understand that we parents may not fly in a magic sleigh or be able to fit down a chimney, but these same people who wash their underwear and ask them to clear the table are also capable of making one day of the year feel so magical, we had to give the glory to a mythical miracle worker for it to even seem plausible.

So I do not mind that my daughter finally knows her dad and I are Santa Claus. It just means that when she doesn’t get that iPhone under the tree this year, she will not think she has somehow failed the judgment of a bearded break-in artist with a keen sense of morality. She will instead know, just as she had suspected, mom and dad are simply cheapskates and believers in the school of thought that nothing really good can come of an eight-year-old with an iPhone. More importantly, it also means she now knows we are the makers of magic.

Hasta la vista, Santa. The real person who has been keeping track of the naughty and nice is taking over.

But just in case...she's giving her list to Santa for good measure.
But just in case…she’s giving her list to Santa for good measure.

Need a gift idea for Christmas? Think of how excited your kids will be to find some “Mayhem” under the tree! Check out my children’s book, Absolute Mayhem, available at KellySuellentrop.com and on Amazon.

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38 Responses

  1. I had similar fears that my daughter would be crest fallen, but she wasn’t. She (10) seems to enjoy playing along with her still-believing brother (5) and then winking at us to show she is in on the secret. Merry Christmas!

    • I think my daughter likes being a part of secret as well. Although, sometimes she oversells it a bit too much for my taste. Yet I don’t think I want to teach her the ways of artful lying. That could come back to bite me later.

  2. Kel, this blog itself is magical…so beautifully put!!!

  3. I’m so glad she’s not upset! My family … as in immediate family … still does Santa. Yeah, we’re all fully-fully grown and we’ve never missed a year of the whole shebang! So y’all don’t need to change a thing—it’ll still be fun for years and years to come :)

  4. Perfectly said! Our older son is eight, and I think this will be his last year. It’s sad, but I hope he’ll become a part of the magic next year.

    “…nothing really good can come of an eight-year-old with an iPhone.” Seconded!

  5. Aw, love this! My twins just turned 2, so they don’t quite get the Santa concept yet. I have fears about telling them later and having them be devastated…hoping it doesn’t ruin things for them.

    • You know, I think so many of us worry about that. But I can’t really think of any stories from people I know where finding out the truth about Santa ruined a child’s life. I’m pretty sure the fact that they still get presents eases the hurt pretty quickly :)

  6. A great way of putting it! It’s always fun while it lasts. I find it bittersweet in the sense you know they are growing up into a new stage of their development.

    • Ugh…it always is bittersweet, isn’t it? I was just telling someone else that our whole job is to help them grow up, but it kind of sucks when we realize they are actually doing it.

  7. Anne Nestor Blind

    What???? There is no Santa???? :-) Beautiful post – I still think it was harder for me to accept than it was for my boys!

    • Sorry I ruined that for you, Aunt Anne :) But it’s true, I think for most kids, it’s not as big of a deal as we think it will be. Most of them are ready to know when they find out.

  8. This is so sweet and so true. I think it’s important to encourage kids to believe in Santa, but I don’t think the holiday completely loses its wonder for them when they learn the truth. Beautifully written. :)

    • Thanks, girl! In some ways, I think knowing there is no Santa helps kids to appreciate what Christmas is REALLY about…not some guy you’ve never met, but about all the people you love.

  9. I’ve been getting a bit ahead of myself (considering we don’t have kids) thinking about how we’ll broach the topic of St. Nick if and when we do have kids. I loved the wonder of Santa as a child and I still love seeing depictions of him in all his jolly goodness. Sometimes I think the truth makes it that much more poignant–as you’ve pointed out: the wonder that our parents love us so much they’ll go to such extremes to make it special for us. That’s deep stuff.

    • I’m with you! I still love the idea of Santa. And, girl, you are on top of things!!!! You’ll be a pro when you have to navigate the Santa myth with your kids!

  10. So sweet and tender, Kelly. Love this. And I fully salute you for not buying an 8 year old an iPhone. Way to go Mom!

  11. I’m 33 this year and for 32 years, and maybe even this upcoming one, there will still be presents claiming “From: Santa” on my gifts. As my mother and step-father always say, “The minute you stop believing in Santa, he stops believing in you, too.” While I always thought it was really funny, I still love seeing those “Santa gifts” under their tree on Christmas morning, even as I’m helping to put them out for the grandkids, with my name on them.

  12. Awww….I love this! Written beautifully! I’m dreading the day that Molly finds out, but this made it seem a little more bearable!

  13. .I felt that I was an adult at 8 years old, because I knew. That was magical to an 8 year old. Awesome post!!!

  14. Those expensive gifts are really a problem when Santa gets credit for all the gifts under the tree. Kids are left wondering why Santa gave expensive stuff to their friends and not them.

    My husband’s brother & sister-in-law have the right idea – Santa gets credit for the stockings and Mom & Dad get credit for the rest of the gifts.

    I remember crying my eyes out when I found out Santa wasn’t real. Some kid on the playground told me before I’d figured it out myself, so I clearly wasn’t ready for the information.

    • That IS a great idea that Santa gets credit for the stockings. We used go to my grandma’s house on Christmas Eve, and Santa always left a stocking for each grandkid there. We never questioned why he didn’t leave presents, too.

      The playground can be a rough place around Christmas time. I made sure to tell my daughter she is under NO circumstances supposed to enlighten anyone at school. For that very reason.

  15. Another thing Grace will gain by her new knowledge is that her parents love her so much that she may not get everything she thinks she must have. Santa, when you get past all the materialism, is about the love he brings. And nobody does that better for a child than Mom and Dad! Your kids are very fortunate! Merry Christmas. Grammy

  16. Thanks for telling me about this post! It is so sweet! I don’t sit down to my blogs as often as I should, so I’m glad to have caught up on this one! Loved the Christmas card, too!

    • Thanks!! And I know the feeling…I have been so bad about reading blogs lately as well. I was just doing some catching up tonight, and I’m glad I saw you liked my post because it gave me the push to check out your blog!! I’m hoping that once we get back in the regular swing of things I can start reading more good stuff!

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