What kind of mother considers telling her child that “Santa went to Heaven?” or says “I need this kid to stop believing in Santa.” A bah-humbug-scroogey mom, that's who. Actually that "who" was me.
Of course, it didn’t start out that way. It never does. In each of the past eight years, Jamie and I religiously sought out the Fat Man like groupies stalk rockstars so GeeGee could tell him what was on her Christmas list, and so we could snap the annual visit with Santa photo.
We continued feeding the charade through the years, throughout the season and through the Big Night. There were cookies and milk for Santa; carrots for the reindeer; notes from Santa to GeeGee. When she was old enough to noodle around on the computer, we’d email Santa, track his flight across the world enroute to our house and made sure GeeGee was tucked in and asleep for his arrival.
The charade was fun.
But feeding the ravenously hungry lie behind the charade was draining. As GeeGee entered her tweens, the wish list grew – and so did the potential expense of fulfilling her wishes: a $175-something hand-held game; a $300-some-odd gaming system; and iPad….AN iPad?! Sure, we've had talks about mom and dad not being able to afford all these big-ticket items, but GeeGee reasoned (quite logically) that if mom and dad couldn’t afford the stuff, then Santa could.
Which is why, by this Christmas, I was precariously teetering on the point of saying “Seriously! You’re ten now – 10 years old – that’s TWO numbers! For the love of pete, when are you gonna stop it with this Santa business?”
Enter the big box. Her present. A big, heavy box that I picked up while Jamie was at work and she was at school and the Fat Man was nowhere to be found. I lugged it out of my car, over the sidewalk, up the porch stairs, into the house and pushed it to our bedroom. Draped it in a towel, and left it there so Jamie could assemble the contents, because after all, Santa doesn’t do assembly either.
A day later, GeeGee said “Um…I saw a box in your bedroom the other day. It had a towel on it and, um…” A year ago, hearing her say such a thing would’ve made my blood run cold and I would’ve come up with some super-lame-keep-the-charade-alive lie. This year, I was only tempted to use this as the opportunity to tear into my anti-Santa rant. But I didn’t. Instead, I just flat-out denied any knowledge of the monster box and told her to ask her dad about it. Done.
Until Christmas Eve. That night she handed her letter to Santa to me. Here we go again, I thought. “Can you make sure you leave this out for Santa?” Yes. “And cookies and milk?” Yes. “Also, leave the carrots out for the reindeer.” Got it handled.
GeeGee’s letter didn’t say word one about what she wanted or even a thank you. She was asking Santa if he was real. She even made a column on the page for his response. Unable to compose anything besides “Thank you for letting us off the hook! Love, Mom and Dad,” I let Jamie answer. He came up with a tender response “…you can believe in me as long as you want to. But I will always believe in you.”
Christmas Morning. “Santa’s not real is he? I mean, this is dad’s handwriting.” While I had my head stuck in the sand, Jamie had a sweet conversation with GeeGee about the Fat Man, Christmas and what that day really means to us as Christians, and how even though Santa’s not real, we can still enjoy the idea of him. Satisfied, she hugged and kissed both of us and went on to enjoy her presents – without caring whether Santa brought them or whether we did. Admittedly, I was a little sad about GeeGee leaving that part of her childhood behind.
But when no one was looking or listening, I could be heard gleefully mumbling under my breath:
The jig’s up, Fat Man.