Two years ago, in mid December, my husband overheard this conversation while waiting at the bus stop with our kids:
Jacob (9 years old): You know what the kids in my class have been saying?
Kathleen (7 years old): What?
Jacob: Santa’s not real. It’s our Mom and Dad.
Kathleen: Jacob. Do you really think our Mom and Dad fly all over the world, sliding up and down chimneys, delivering presents, in one night? I don’t think so.
Now Kathleen says everything with a certain feistiness, and as usual, she convinced her brother that she was right.
This story really struck me; Kathleen had this incredible way of sizing up her parents in that statement – we must be too busy, too cheap and too selfish to make such a trip around the world for the sake of other children.
Last spring, before Easter, Kathleen was in the back seat of our car when she told me that she lost a tooth. I said that she’d have to stick it under her pillow at night. There was a long silence before she quietly said: “I lost it yesterday, actually, and put it under my pillow last night. I know the tooth fairy is you and Dad”. Yikes. How did this one get so clever? I always think my job as a parent is to ask questions and listen. She worked through her thoughts and finally concluded, “And I’m guessing the Easter Bunny is the same.” That night, I asked her about Santa. “If I don’t believe in a magical tooth fairy or bunny, do you think I believe a man in a red suit flies around the world?” Her attitude was back.
So with Christmas only a few days away, and with Kathleen’s new knowledge about Santa, there is no magic in our house. But I have been struck by what has emerged instead. Last weekend, Kathleen woke up and told us that she was going to make cookies all by herself and give them to our neighbours. She worked all morning, then put four cookies (only four each!) on a paper plate and wrapped them in saran. You have no idea how much I wanted to add additional cookies or chocolates or decorations to those plates… but I resisted, and off she went to deliver her gifts.
When I asked Jacob what he was most looking forward to, he said he “couldn’t wait” to see Kathleen unwrap her gift.
It seems that without Santa, the kids are just as excited. I almost prefer them knowing that Kevin and I chose their special gifts. Is it selfish of me to not want to give credit to a man in a red suit? Am I hopeful that our daughter will think differently about her parents this year? I think it is more a desire for me to share with them the real joy of generosity.
May your holidays be filled with special memories, and may you enjoy being generous with those you love.