As the calendar rolled around to the Christmas season (which, in our house, starts on November 22nd, which is my wife's birthday and thus the day she is allowed to start playing Christmas music in the house. This was so-negotiated because, left to her own devices, she would play Christmas music year-round, and I would be the defendant in a homicide trial), we had another opportunity to observe one of the primary personality differences between our daughters (12-, and 10-years old). The younger (A) was simply excited for the start of Santa-watch. The older (E) was both excited and touched with some trepidation. She being more given than her sister to the rational analysis of facts, and - where necessary - the reconciliation of those facts against things observed in life. Her sister, A, being more given to just accepting something on the face of her immediate emotional reaction to it.
The thing is, she really wanted to keep Believing. She asked us early on if we were Santa. We put her off with some pablum about "I don't know how you think we could get around the whole world delivering presents to all those kids in one night", which she bought - albeit grudgingly. And then she proceeded to traipse through the Christmas season with the same wonder and joy and merriment - and belief - that she had brought to each of her preceding Christmases.
Until two nights ago.
We were just sitting down to dinner, and she said, "So mom and dad, ARE you Santa?" Uh-oh.
True to form, E had a list of proof points she ticked off that frankly blew us out of the water. The piece de resistance of which was that E had logged into my wife's computer to do something, and had seen the browser window open to Amazon - and a message saying that some of the items that had been on E's Santa List had successfully been purchased and were being shipped to us. Busted.
But, as this recitation was going on, my wife and I stole askance glances at A who, while she had clearly been read in on this interrogation beforehand, just as clearly was fighting the cognitive dissonance in her own mind and heart - she was trying to debunk all of these things, or at least explain them away, because - in her world - Santa is real.
My wife deftly tabled the discussion, mostly so A could finish her meal before she lost her appetite.
After A had gone to bed that night, we went into E's room and had The Talk with her. Well not, The Talk. *I'm* not emotionally prepared for that The Talk. This The Talk was the Santa one. Oof, now I need to sit down for a minute.
Anyway, E took it like a champ. Our point was that Santa is part of the Christmas spirit, not a literal jolly old elf who has magical reindeer that fly him around the whole world in one night, delivering presents that were made in his non-sweatshop factory by other, non-enslaved elves. Our little skeptic had several questions. "Do you also do our stockings?" "What's the deal with Hermey, then?" (He's our Elf on the Shelf Elf.) "How does the Santa we see every year at the nursery where we get our Christmas tree always remember our names and what we got last year?" We have no answer for that one, other than the guy is clearly some kind of confidence man.
What made me proud of E, though, was the final part of our The Talk. That was the part where we told her that she now knows the secret. And that we can't make her say or not say anything (other than please and thank you because no one lives under our roof who doesn't have good manners), and we won't ask her to lie, but that her sister, two years younger than E, is still firmly in the Believer camp. That, two years ago, so was E. And....just sort of an implied "it would be huge of you to let her continue to believe until she gets to where you are now".
E is such a great kid. I think she got it. In some way I think she was relieved. Her rational/analytical mind just couldn't make it work anymore. It was at odds with her heart. Even if this is the harder-edged outcome, at least she doesn't have to deal with the internal struggle anymore.
It was a hard The Talk. My wife got teary. I did a little bit, too. It's tough seeing any of the layers of childhood stripped away from your kids - even those layers that aren't more serious. Except Santa is pretty serious to a kid. And so is the ability to believe. And that's the piece that I hope E got. It's okay to suspend disbelief. It's okay to find the truth, too. It's knowing when to do which that is the difference between being a kid and being an adult.
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