A few months ago, I had the misfortune of both witnessing and contributing to the end of my kids’ childhood. Nate has been at me for a good year now with the questions, sometimes subtle, sometimes completely direct. I have been deflecting, for the most part. “Well, what do you think?”, I would say in response to his probing. This usually got me off the hook temporarily. It’s not that I wanted to lie to him. It’s just that I have invested a lot of time and energy into this particular cover-up. I always thought that I could be honest with him, when the time was right. But it turned out to be harder than I thought. The question would come out of his mouth, and I would panic, scramble for words, my mouth suddenly dry. Today? Today can’t be the day he finds out. I’m not ready. He’s not ready. We’re not ready. It will ruin everything.
But then one day he asked, and I could see it in his eyes, that he already knew. He just needed that nod of the head from me to confirm his suspicions. “Mom, are you and dad Santa?” I just looked at him, nodded my head ever so slightly, with a half-smile that was not so much a smile as an expression of sad surrender. “I KNEW IT!!!” They both started hollering, thinking themselves so clever for figuring it out, while I sat, equal parts shell-shocked and relieved. It would seem the magic of childhood was over, just like that. What now?
I started to think of all the precautions I had failed to take that, had they been consistently applied, may have allowed the magic to last longer. I didn’t disguise my handwriting on the gift tags. I didn’t always use different wrapping paper for “Santa” gifts, especially if I was pressed for time. Worst of all, I sent them to elementary school, which is where they all talk about such things around the water cooler, apparently. Vicky told Frank who told Joey that Santa wasn’t real, because her parents told her, that’s why. And although Vicky is a 4th grade gossip she seemed, to my children at least, a trustworthy enough source. Still, neither of my kids would fully believe Vicky or Frank or even Joey, until they heard it from their mom. I wonder how long that will last–that I, mom, am the substantiator of all truth and falsehood.
Then they started to put some of the other pieces together. “WHERE ARE MY TEETH? WHERE DO YOU KEEP MY TEETH??” Since they started losing their teeth in 1st grade, they have both been obsessed by where the Tooth Fairy takes their teeth. They knew something was up with that Easter Bunny. This year, she didn’t even bother to hide the eggs, she just plopped the pre-filled baskets in the middle of the kitchen table. The Easter Bunny was tired and, frankly, mostly just proud of herself for actually remembering to go shopping for the Easter baskets and all of their accoutrements before the 11th hour.
So, maybe I was ready for this. Maybe instead of the end, it is a marvelous beginning, in which I get to go to bed in the month of December without sitting bolt upright in the middle of my non-REM cycle because I forgot to move the blasted Elf on the Shelf. Maybe instead of the holidays being less magical, it will be one less thing to stress about, thereby making it magical in a different way. Maybe I can use some of the energy I have been expending on weaving this tangled web of deception for something else. Like avoiding “the sex talk”.