I don’t remember when I figured the whole Santa thing out. I’m guessing it was in the first-second grade range, which seems about right for most kids who are either only children or the oldest kid in their family. I do know that outwardly I was sure to keep believing for at least a year or two after the shades were lifted.
In my family, we had both family presents and Santa presents. The family presents were set out under the tree gradually over December, tempting you constantly. Santa gifts arrived Christmas Eve and were waiting unwrapped under the tree on Christmas morning.
I wasn’t a fool. I figured if my parents and aunts and uncles thought I was still down with the Santa myth, that meant an extra 3-4 presents each year. I didn’t want to mess with a good thing.
I mention all of that because if form holds, this could be the last Christmas that M. is fully invested in the idea of Santa. Where now she accepts the idea that the Santas we see in malls and stores are the real Santa’s helpers, a year from now her questions may be more pointed. Her cynicism sharper. Her understanding fuller. We might get another year or two out of her, but after this Christmas, nothing is sure.
So I’m enjoying her complete belief this year. Over the past couple weeks, she had a couple moments where she demonstrated how into the idea of Christmas magic she was.
Two weeks ago, we had a Saturday snow storm. We only got 3-4″, but it was the thick, heavy stuff that packs well. While I shoveled the drive, the girls played next door with our neighbors. When I finished the drive, I began making a snowman in our front yard. The girls were so preoccupied playing that they didn’t notice what I was doing. So I slapped it together quickly and then walked over to the garage to put the shovel away.
A few minutes later, the girls came running over, chased by the neighbors. They stopped abruptly when they saw the snowman.
“Dad, did you make that snowman?” M. asked.
“Snowman, what snowman?” I turned and looked where she was pointing. “Wow, where did that come from?”
“You didn’t make it?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, M., I was busy shoveling. How did I have time to make a snowman?”
She considered that quietly for a minute. “Where do you think he came from, then?”
“I don’t know. He must be magic.”
“Guys!” she screamed. “The snowman is magic!” She and C. and the five-year-old neighbor all screamed and danced in delight. It was a Christmas miracle! The eight-year-old neighbor stood there silently, giving me a knowing look. It was like he knew I had made the snowman and there was no magic involved, but he didn’t want to say anything just in case he was wrong and not believing somehow impacted what showed up under his Christmas tree. Smart kid.
A week later, we went for a post-dinner drive to look at Christmas lights. A house down the street has a large, inflatable Santa riding in a sleigh with a team of reindeer in front of it. It was very windy that night, and the sleigh was rocking in the gusts. M. saw the movement and began shouting.
“It’s moving! Guys! It’s moving! It’s real! It’s the real Santa!”
S. and I were dying in the front seats.
She’s not exactly a tiny tot anymore, but her eyes certainly are aglow.
C. is busy asking for every single toy, game, or activity that she sees on TV. Those five minute commercial breaks on Nick Jr. can double her Christmas list. “Dad, I want that,” or “Mom, I want to put that on my Christmas list,” are her standard comments. I estimate she’s asked for roughly 10,000 things this year.
L. is just beginning to understand what’s going on. She’s a huge fan of pretty much any Christmas cartoon or movie. She talks about Rudolph all the time. During every song in The Polar Express, she jumps up and dances around the room. She’s also all about the Baby Jesus. We have two different nativity scenes, and she enjoys taking the Baby Jesus from both of them and telling us that they’re brother Baby Jesuses. “Dey brudders.”
Oh, and one more big thing. Our girls visited with Santa on Monday. It was the first time any of them had sat with Santa. We went to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum’s annual Jolly Days event. The highlight is a big “Yule Slide.” We’ve always done that in the past, but this was the first year C. was big enough to go on her own. So she and M. “raced.” And S. and I went down at the same time, with me holding L.. All three girls loved it.
Anyway, we went through the other Christmas stuff and when we got near Santa, there were only a couple kids in line. L., of all people, had been begging to go sit with Santa a couple weeks ago, so we figured this was as good a time as any. All three girls sat with Santa, each a little nervous. At the last second C. said she didn’t want to do it, but she sat down anyway. They all smiled for a picture, M. and C. told Santa what they wanted while I helped L. explain what she wanted, and they all used good manners when they left. It was about as solid a success as you could ask for.