I was dreading this moment for years. Ever since we first introduced the notion of Santa… one day I would have to reveal that Santa isn’t real.
The first time my child even mentioned the possibility of Santa not being real was in kindergarten when he came home telling me that another child at school has said that Santa isn’t real (gasp). I personally was shocked, 4 and 5 years old seemed so young still, there was no way I was going to let this other child ruin this for us! I tried to play it cool and asked him what he thought about it. He firmly said that Santa must be real; crisis averted.
This happened every year at school; someone would say something and he would come home and mention it to me. We would have a brief conversation and he would walk away thinking that magic must definitely be real. But I knew the clock was ticking and one day the conversation would have to be slightly different.
This year, we started decorating and talking about Christmas a bit early (#2020). It was mid November and the kids and I were out for a walk. E was right beside me and the other younger two were a bit ahead. He urned to me and disclosed that a friend of his had said that Santa isn’t real. My heart dropped because there was a different tone to his voice. But, I responded with my regular “well, what do you think….what does your heart tell you?”. “I don’t know anymore” was his response. I knew right away. This was going to be the year we had the talk… I knew I was going to have to figure something out and was terrified that it would dampen his Christmas spirit.
Fast forward a week and it’s December 1st. I decided to do “Elf on the Shelf” (I know I know… I HATED it two years ago, but I’m keeping it super simple). The morning that our elf Peppermint arrived the two younger kids were absolutely delighted. While we were in the kitchen in the process of getting breakfast ready, E mumbled just loud enough for me to hear “I don’t really think Peppermint is real” with a frown on his face. I responded with “if you’re thinking that, do you think that’s something you should be saying out loud right now?” gesturing to his younger brothers with my eyes. “No” he replied.
That afternoon, when he was home school, we were going to write and mail our letters to Santa. I got the paper ready, markers, crayons; everything they needed. The younger two happily ran to the table and excitedly began discussing what they wanted to say to Santa. E sulked over to the table and rolled his eyes. I watched as he scribbled a few things down then walked away. I tried to boost his morale, ignite that Christmas spirit and excitement… it was tough. When the letter were all done and sealed, we got ready to walk to the post office.
On the way we passed a family member who saw us with our letters and enthusiastically wished us well. E was a bit ahead of us and I heard him say “if he’s even real…”. My heart sank; what was going on?! I could clearly see that he was having doubts, he wasn’t into the letter writing at all, his attitude was FAR from jolly. On one hand, I understood why he was acting this way if he had doubts in his mind, but I was also a bit frustrated that he was voicing this out loud in such an off hand way for the others to potentially hear him! We would talk later I decided.
December second, day two of Elf on the Shelf and guess what? I forgot to move him. My husband’s alarm went off and 4:30 and I shot up in bed and thought “PEPPERMINT!!”. I asked my husband frantically if he could move Peppermint, “literally anywhere” I said. I went back to sleep. The kids woke me up what felt like minutes later and ran downstairs ahead of me. I sleepily made my way down the stairs and the very first thing I noticed was Peppermint in the EXACT same spot as before. My husband for got to move him too!
I quickly sent the kids downstairs to the basement with the task of feeding our pet bunnies. Perfect, now I could move the elf. The kids came back up shortly after and then were delighted once again to find Peppermint in his new location without noticing a thing; crisis averted. Now, everyone was in the midst of getting ready for the day; lunches were being made for school, socks were being pulled on, etc. E then comes into the kitchen with a angry look on his face “why did you lie to me” he asked. He told me he noticed the elf when he got downstairs and then noticed how it had moved when they came up from the basement. “You liked to me” he said a few more times and I could feel the hurt in his voice and see the tears he was holding back. My heart sank.
I knew I couldn’t pretend about Peppermint anymore and so I told him. Told him it was something fun Mommy and Daddy do to make each morning a little more special and exciting. Explained that it wasn’t about lying, but about us trying to make this time of year even more special; and then I apologized. After giving him a hug and sending him off to school, I knew. We needed to tell him about Santa Claus, and soon; he felt lied to and betrayed and he needed to hear the truth from us.
That very afternoon, we were sitting down together on his bed and were talking about school. The moment felt right, we were having an very open discussion about something else and then he looked at me. And so I said to him:
The truth is that Santa Claus is not a person. Not a single person who travels the world in one night in a red suit with his reindeer. Santa is more than that. Santa is the Christmas spirit and magic that comes from giving to others and not expecting anything in return. Santa is love and happiness. Mommy and Daddy have been the ones putting presents under the tree and filling your stockings just like our parents did for us. And just like you may do for your kids one day. The magic is still there, but not in the way you thought before and now you’re old enough to understand it. Now you know and now you get to be on the other side of the magic. You get to experience and help spread all that joy, excitement, and love from THIS side. We love you so much and are so excited to have you on our team. You’re a part of the magic now.
His eyes lit up with excitement; he was apart of it now. He smiled and hugged me. I asked him if he was ok, even though I could see that he was more than ok. He asked us a few questions and we talked a bit more. This had gone so so well. And to my absolute delight, his Christmas spirit had returned and it was brighter than ever.
That very evening I overheard him excitedly say to his little brothers “I’m so excited for Santa to come! What do you think he’s going to bring us?”.
The next morning, as he ran down the stairs and exclaimed “I wonder where Peppermint is going to be this morning!”.
It’s been almost two weeks since we talked to him and he has been excitedly discussing all things Christmas and the magic of Santa with his younger brothers daily. I’m so beyond happy, lucky, and grateful to have such a special little human as part of my team.
**I’m sharing our story with full consent from E who has agreed that this might help other families talk about the true magic of Christmas**