This past summer J and I made an executive decision after a long time discussing all probable outcomes as well as the ethics involved revealing to Xavier a long held secret many parental units hold tightly to until they feel the time is right. Many parents are saved making this delicate decision by their own kids professing beforehand that they already know the secret. Some of you end up like us, having to walk a hairline wire to ensure you don’t forever damage your child.
I’m talking about revealing the truth about Santa.
Every parental unit has their own reasons that fuel this decision if they have to make it. Ours were because Xavier was now eleven, would be close to twelve by the time this Christmas would arrive, and because he had started the dreaded middle school era of his life. Xavier is so exuberant in his convictions of anything, that our greatest fear would be the topic of Santa discussed at the lunch table, and after Xavier professing his unwavering belief that a big guy in a red suit living at the North Pole flew around the world in one night to give presents t good boys and girls would cause his new friends to look at him with less respect and tease him. Or they would be the ones to tell him the truth and he would come home, trust broken in us.
We also wanted to be the ones to explain because while the mythical figure Santa may not exists as a corporal being, he does exist as the spirit of Christmas. We wanted to explain to Xavier that Santa is the symbol of love, family, charity, thoughtfulness, generosity, all wrapped up in a stocking hat and big black boots.
So we approached him cautiously one day as a team. We asked him what his thoughts were about Santa. And we asked him if he knew that there was a super-secret club he could join, that only adults and mature kids could join? And would he like to join it, with the understanding that once he did, he couldn’t undo it?
He was resistant. Defensive. Wary. Were we trying to tell him that Santa wasn’t real??? (No, not really.) Of COURSE Santa was real!!!! How dare we imply otherwise! Have we been lying to him this whole time?
So we left it then with him understanding that that was not what we were doing, and that if he became interested in talking more, to come to us.
Over the past several months, Xavier would approach us and ask us if Santa was real. We’d ask him what he believed. He said Santa was real. Ok then, that’s awesome.
And then came Thanksgiving Day. We were hanging out at my mom’s house when Xavier approached me.
“I think I’m ready to join the super-secret club.”
“Are you sure?”
“Ok then. Sit down and let me tell you some history about Christmas and Santa.”
“You mean mythology of Santa?”
“No, I mean his history.”
And so he sat, and my friend G guarded the back door so no other kids could show up unexpectedly, and I told Xavier the history of Santa. About a guy long ago named Nicholas, and how he helped out a poor family with three daughters who had no money for a dowry. How he slipped into their house and left dowry’s for them so they could have a chance at a good life that would have otherwise been impossible. And how that one good deed resonated so far that he was made a saint, St. Nicholas. And how that story spread far and wide across the world, and people latched onto it and started to echo that idea, about charity, love, generosity, etc.
And then I explained that while Santa is not what he always thought he was, he is real in the idea of Christmas. And that we adults continue to echo his deeds, varied over the years, to keep that meaning alive. And when a child becomes old enough, the parents ask them to join in and continue the message for his siblings, and later on, his own children.
Xavier, despite my fears, ate it up. It was like a light went on, and his understanding of Christmas grew larger, deeper, and more meaningful. And after I explained this all to him I asked him if he would like to be Santa with us this year. And he smiled and nodded…..but added a few caveats to it ;)
He didn’t want to help choose the gifts, because he still wanted to be surprised. He didn’t want to help wrap those gifts up, but did want to be the one to put them under the tree. He did want to help stuff his brothers stockings, but not his own. And he didn’t want to be around when J and I placed the rest of the family gifts under the tree. All easily done.
Since then, he has come up to me to ask me for more information. He’s asked about the Easter Bunny. The Tooth Fairy. He wants to know how we can hide eggs so well, and insists that I am part ninja for getting his teeth out from under his pillow while slipping money and a note as a replacement. He wanted to know why the Leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day stopped coming, and was he really scared of the traps set out to capture him by Xavier or was Dad (in charge of leaving chocolate coins out) just forgetful? (Yes)
I’ve watched Xavier over the past week as we set up our tree, do our advent calendars, and listen to holiday music. I’ve watched him cock his head once in a while, lost in thought. And then I’ve watched a little smile creep up on the side of his face as if he knows something others don’t. As he realizes just how important this secret club really is, and he is both in awe of how we parental units do it every year, and how he is now responsible for such a big secret.
And he is so proud to be a part of it.
I am too. I couldn’t have asked for it to have gone any better. May my two other children find the reincarnation of Santa just as awe inspiring when they too join our club.