And so it's begun.
The eldest Munchkin approached me earlier this week, in the midst of struggling to get a sweater that's long belonged in the 'donate' box over my head. We were late for school and I rushed the answer to a question I have been preparing for since my kids were born.
"Mom, is there really a Santa?"
oh god. my heart bottomed out somewhere around my colon. What a terrifying string of words. Christmas is far and away one of my favorite holidays. Not just for the presents, but for the lights, the baking, the family; the way everyone lights up with a soft inner glow every evening as we wrap presents and arrange ornaments.
And I botched the answer. I stuttered and stammered and asked if she really wanted to know? And then we had a sit down on the floor of my closet and talked about Santa. and I walked away feeling like I'd failed on a conversation I'd had in my head a million times.
This letter is my attempt to fix that.
Hello, Sweet girl:
I wanted to clear up a few things about our conversation the other day.
You asked a very good question – and you are old enough to deserve a very good answer. I was just so surprised that I’m afraid I didn’t give you a very good answer.
Is Santa real?
Am I the one that puts the presents under the tree and in your stocking at Christmas?
Let me explain: I have always told you kids that I think it is important to believe in something bigger than yourself. Santa is no exception. Santa is bigger than any one person. And his magic has gone on longer than you or I. Yes, Your dad and I and Pat and Penny are responsible for your gifts on Christmas morning. Just like my parents were responsible for my presents when I was your age, and their parents were responsible for their presents when they were your age. (Yes, your grandparents were all once your age too).
But Santa isn’t about presents. Christmas isn’t truly about presents either. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, and about displaying your love and appreciation for others. And Santa is about teaching people, especially children, to believe in something they can’t see or touch. Santa was your first lesson in believing in something bigger than yourself.
Believing is a big job. And it’s a hard one, beautiful girl. There are so many times in your life that I won’t be right there next to you, and you’ll need to believe in yourself for both of us. You’ll need to trust and believe in your friends and your family…you’ll need to put your faith in someone outside of yourself. And that’s a hard thing to do, but you’ve had practice. You’ll be all right.
So, now you know the whole truth.
I’m not Santa, but I’m on his team. And now? You are too.
Pay attention this year. Watch how your sister’s face lights up when you’re crowding around the tree Christmas morning. Watch how my face lights up to see you all so excited. How we all glow a little brighter when we turn the tree lights on every evening. I didn’t even know it was possible when I was a kid, but Christmas gets better the older you get.
I’m so proud of you for asking hard questions. I want you to keep asking hard questions. And I want you to keep accepting the answers with the calm smile that you did the other day. Your heart already knew the answer. Trust your heart. I do.