Do you believe in Santa?
I still do. Well, I mean, I don't expect a mountain of presents under my tree from a jolly old elf. But I still believe in the idea of Santa Claus, in the ideal of Santa Claus. I still believe in that magical something that surrounds this most blessed season and finds a symbol in that red-clad, generous man.
But when it came to what to tell my kids about Santa, I hemmed and hawed for years. Part of it was pure selfishness on my part--I put a lot of effort into gift-selection, and I didn't want to share the credit with an anonymous stranger! But more than that, my kids already have SO MUCH STUFF. I really didn't want to introduce a free ticket for more. Christmas morning at our house finds the kids with enough, but not a ton of present. Usually 5-7 each, plus stocking. We keep it small deliberately, because once the grandparents add their gifts to the day . . . yeah, not so small anymore.
And in years past, the kids never really noticed whether something was from us or Santa. But this year--boy howdy. Xoe has been asking me since summertime why Santa doesn't come to our house (and she was a little upset about it). She asked, "Is Santa real?"
Argh. I understand the whole "I don't want to lie to my kids" dilemma about Santa. But . . . I love Santa stories. So I replied, "What do you think?" Xoe: "He's real! So why doesn't he bring me presents?" In my oh-so-quick-thinking, I informed her that I told Santa not to bring anything until she could ask for something in particular, because there were so many less fortunate kids out there who needed him to brighten their day.
Naturally, this year she wanted to write a letter to Santa. But I still didn't want this to be a ticket to unnecessary free stuff, so I told her she could only ask him for one thing. Just one, so to consider carefully. And then I told her we were going to help Santa out by buying a toy for a toy drive. Then I bought a book that explains who Saint Nicholas actually is, and why he's a part of Christmas.
Xoe considered very carefully, for weeks, and wavered back and forth about what she wanted to ask him for. She eventually decided on a princess ballerina costume, with shoes that have ribbons. And a tiara, of course. She wrote him a very sweet, polite letter (complete with asking after the reindeer, LOL), and drew him a picture on the back so he'd know exactly what this costume should look like.
Is my balance Right? Is my decision on how to handle things Good? How's a parent ever to know? But when I updated my hubby on the conversations Xoe and I had had on the subject, he looked genuinely impressed. And when we took Xoe's letter to be mailed, there was such light in her eyes that I knew it wasn't just about the costume for her. It was about believing.
And I think maybe I haven't handled this so terribly after all. My little girl made a conscious decision to believe--and it means more to her because of that.