Friday, December 17, 2010

Santa Claus is stressing me out

The first "non-believing" memory I have is when I was probably seven or eight.  My sister Mary Beth, who slept by the window, was sitting up in bed, hugging her knees to her chest.  She had been sitting like that ever since bedtime, waiting patiently for a sight of Santa and his sleigh in the sky.  I remember lying there watching her and feeling so sad.  She was so bright-eyed and eager and hopeful.  And she was prepared to wait all night, fully expecting that she would be rewarded with the sight of the reindeer landing on our lawn, prancing and jingling their harness bells.

When I saw a plane flying across the sky, I jumped out of bed and ran over to her.  "Look, Mary Beth!  See that blinking red light?  That's Rudolph's nose!  Quick, go to sleep so Santa can come!"

She promptly plopped down, pulled up her covers, and squeezed her eyes shut as tightly as she could.  I went back to bed and just lay there feeling a little guilty, a little sad, and a little wistful. 


We haven't really pushed the idea of Santa Claus to our kids.  I didn't want them to feel really let-down when they found out the truth (although I don't ever remember feeling this way, I do remember how awful it was when my youngest sister Rosalind found out and THEN told her older sister Elise, who was one of the ardent faithful).  So we have talked more about it being a celebration of Christ's birth and about how exciting it is to  give other people and see how happy they are when we've thought about what they would really love.  But while we haven't taken our kids to sit on Santa's lap, we still read things like "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and hang our stockings by the chimney. 

Today Abigail asked me if Rudolph was real.  I asked her what she thought, and she said she wasn't sure and she'd like to know whether she should believe or not.  I said maybe we could throw some oats on the snow on Christmas Eve and see if there were deer tracks the next morning (can practically guarantee there will be).

Then today after lunch she looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said, "Mom, will the Polar Express ever come for me?"  And I seriously felt like my mother-heart was breaking there for a minute.  I told her that it had never come for me, but that didn't mean it wouldn't come for her. 

Yesterday at school they had a Polar Express day, and she has been wearing her little jingle bell necklace nonstop and carrying around her Polar Express ticket just in case.  When she left for school today, I watched her run out to the carpool with her boots thumping on the snow and her bright aureole of hair flying behind her--and her little red ticket clutched firmly in her hand.

Your thoughts?  How do you do this with your kids?  Was it traumatic for you to find out, or did it just sort of gradually dawn on you? 



Laura said...

I was about 4, maybe 5 years old when I found out Santa didn't exist. My older sister Karen had found out at school Santa didn't exist and she took it upon herself to announce it at the dinner table. The first thing I said was "Oh no, what about Danielle?!" My mother assured me that Dani was too young to understand what we were talking about right then. That's how I found out. I guess I felt a little let down, but not terribly so. We do a gift from "Santa" for the boys, but they've never been to see Santa, or anything like that. I guess eventually all children find out, so maybe that's why I don't want my boys to get super in to Santa. The letdown for some kids can be so heartbreaking, and I'm not looking forward to it.

Crapos said...

My parents gave us Santa presents when we were young but I don't remember a big letdown when I stopped believing - whenever that was. For our family, whenever the question comes up I just tell my kids that Santa is just for fun. We end up having three Christmases every year because of travel and different families and so we've never pushed the idea of Santa or had Santa presents. My kids seem to be just fine.

Mary Beth said...

I think it might have been that same Christmas when I found out--which means you were probably 9 and I was 7, because it was the first Christmas on Fairview. I was sitting up waiting for my own baby reindeer, which was all I'd asked for and all I wanted. I had plans to keep it in the field below the house, I'd stockpiled food, I knew Santa had to have so many reindeer that he couldn't begrudge me one...

And then I came down on Christmas morning and under the tree was a beautiful, big, plush reindeer with a felt red nose. My world changed in that moment. If Santa was real, that would've been a real reindeer--which means he wasn't, because it wasn't.

I knew Mom & Dad had probably looked hard to find that reindeer, and I was grateful for it... but I always resented it a little bit for not being real. However, I always knew Mom and Dad had worked really hard to make my Christmas wish come true, and I loved them for it. The only person I felt betrayed by was Santa, if that makes any sense.

Malinda Crow said...

I don't think I ever believed in Santa. Being the youngest of seven kind of does that. I just always knew that santa and the tooth fairy were just stories.

Rachael said...

Here's the part of the story you've probably never heard--Dad went out on Christmas Eve that year, and the only reindeer he could find was part of a store display. He begged the clerk to sell him, and the guy finally got permission from his manager. I know Mom and Dad both felt so awful that they couldn't give you a real reindeer.

Kathryn said...

I found out from some friends in Kindergarten. I don't remember being that upset. My older siblings and parents were more sad I think to see my belief taken away. lol

We don't push Santa with our kids either. We read stories and watch movies with Santa. Since I don't want to lie to my kids I think of Santa as a character (which he is) and talk about him as I would Elmo. Is Elmo real? Yes! Santa's as real as Elmo or Big Bird or SuperWhy in our house.

Tyson doesn't want Santa coming to our house Christmas Eve anyway because he's scared of him. So when he asked with fear in his eyes last year, "Is Santa coming to our house?! I don't want him in our house!" I reassure him and say, "No Santa isn't coming, but you'll get some presents from Mommy and Daddy in the morning."

Meghan said...

I tried to avoid the whole Santa thing, because I didn't want to lie to you, so I'd tell you it was a wonderful story and that it shows us how we can all be giving, etc.... But you wanted the Santa story, so we went with it, even though we tried to downplay it. I was always worried that if we lied to you about Santa, how could you believe us about God?

Anonymous said...

Such a sweet post Rachael. You are such a thoughtful mom. I loved all the comments too! The idea of Santa is a sweet legend. I like the way you are doing it. Abigail is so adorable! Love, Aunt Pam

Jen said...

I recently read an article (wish I could find the link, because you'd enjoy it) that talked about this very thing. Basically the research showed that parents tend to be the ones who are really "let down" when their kids stop believing...they want to preserve that childhood innocence or something. Kids, on the other hand, tend to feel like they're more grown up and part of a special club once they're in the know. Makes a lot of sense to me. Sure, there may be some disappointment, but that's life, isn't it? And you still get a present, whether Santa exists or not. ;)

That said, when the time comes I will probably do what my parents did. If you didn't "believe," you didn't get a present from "Santa." The end. That's still the rule for unmarried kids, so I'm sure Sam will get something from Santa this year, even though he turned 19 today. I don't remember when I stopped truly believing, so it must not have been a big deal for me. It's always been more about not being a cynical grumpy pants and ruining everyone's Christmas excitement than anything else.

Yeesh. That was longer than I'd planned. Hopefully it makes some sort of sense.

Anonymous said...

I still believe in Santa. He has millions of helpers who try to bring joy both to those they love and also to those they have never and likely will never meet. Santa is the embodiment of anonymous giving. We see glimpses of him in the oddest of times and places.

Santa is nothing like Christ and has nothing of His magnificence and power. Santa has nothing of His substance. What Santa does have is the smallest touch of His love. As we play Santa--be it as a child or adult--and try our inexperienced hand at giving without the expectation of something in return, we become just a touch more real: more like Him.

I did not worry much that disappointment with Santa's foibles or the failings of his helpers would result in loss of faith in Christ. Everything testifies of the Christ: that He lives and that He loves us.

I regret that I could not produce a live reindeer, but I never regret you.


Dani said...

I was devastated when I found out that Santa wasn't real, but I wouldn't trade those years of believing for anything! There was something so wonderful about being innocent enough to believe that a fat, magical man came down my chimney to bring me presents. So, I perpetuate the myth with my kids. We talk about the legend of Santa and regularly drop hints that he's a wonderful myth. I wouldn't want to deny them of all of the joy that I had as a child when I did believe. I think part of me still does.

Laura said...

Mine, too, was a slow dawning rather than a devastating a-ha moment. I was disappointed, but by the time I finally asked my mom, I wasn't surprised. I'd picked up on enough pop culture things to have figured it out. But, our (future) kids will certainly have Santa Claus. It's a fun tradition, even if that's as deep as it goes.

Afton said...

This is the q that every parent must go through and I've talked about it with several friends. In my family, if you didn't believe, you didn't get a present, so you can be sure that we ALL still believe and we all still get presents from him. I love Santa! When I started having doubts and friends insisting they knew he wasn't real because of xyz, I'd tell my mom and she'd tell me it was because they didn't believe so for the years it mattered, I just kept thinking, "it's their loss!" So it was definitely a gradual realization and I'm grateful for that because it helped the magic last longer than most because we all still "believe" in him and so it makes it fun and magical when all the adults still pretend he's real. Even when we helped my mom wrap all the presents from him last year for the grandkids.

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