A few years ago I messed up completely – it was me who ruined the Santa Claus story for my oldest child.
I began Christmas shopping early so I’d be ahead of the schedule and hid $250 worth of gift cards in a book that was also a Christmas present so I wouldn’t lose them. By the time it came to wrap the gifts I had completely forgotten they were in the book. For two weeks I tore the house apart looking for those damn gift cards, everyone in the family knew they were gone – including the kids.
Fast forward to Christmas day and my son opens up his book from Santa. It was put aside until the evening when he took it to his bedroom to read before falling asleep. He opened it up and $250 worth of missing gift cards fell out.
He put two and two together and just like that, the magic of Santa was gone.
My youngest still believed but the following year when he looked me in the eye and asked if Santa was real, I knew I couldn’t lie to his face and my standard answer of “What do you believe?” simply wasn’t cutting it. With one little sentence 13 years of Santa magic was gone.
To be honest, I was more sad about the loss of Santa than my kids were. I wanted to milk the magic for as long as I could for purely selfish reasons. Once that belief is gone, you never get it back and I loved watching their eyes light up when they realized Santa had come, or how excited they were as Christmas day drew near. Their excitement meant I got to relive a part of my childhood through them.
But what I wasn’t expecting were the wonderful things that happen when your kids discover Santa is really an exhausted parent waiting for them to fall asleep so you can lug the presents out of hiding places and get them stacked under the tree and in stockings knowing you'll be up in a few short hours because kids don't sleep late on Christmas morning.
If you’re a parent whose child has stopped believing or is on the cusp of it happening, I want you to know it’s not all coal and reindeer poop.
Remember all those awesome presents they got from Santa? They now know it’s you who gave them. There will be a whole lot of “I can’t believe it was you who bought that for me! You swore you'd never buy me a (insert gift they thought you'd never buy them here).”
Bask in the glow, moms. Bask in the glow.
The same goes for the magic reindeer food, reindeer footprints in the snow, responses to Santa letters, half eaten cookies left on a plate, and whatever else you did to help them believe in the magic. You no longer need to pat yourself on the back because your kids are so impressed they will do it for you. Although they’ll be a little disappointed when they discover the recipe for magic reindeer food was rolled oats and cookie sprinkles.
Even better, you won’t have to go out and buy special “Santa” wrapping paper or change your hand writing on the tags. And hiding places? You’ll still hide the presents but you won’t break out in a cold sweat at the thought of your child finding them.
But the best part is you’ll talk about all your past Christmases and relive the memories, only you’ll be reliving it through their eyes as they tell you how the felt when they saw those half eaten cookies and reindeer footprints in the snow.
And that’s when you realize that the magic never really dies, it just changes.
And that’s the best gift of all.