My son turned eleven in October and is at that age when he’s thinking that Santa Claus isn’t real. I think it’s because he’s seen all the boxes arrive in the past two months that are now wrapped and under the tree. He’s only curious about the small, rectangular gifts that he thinks are video games. And the fact that he’s been on a search for a video game that his dad bought and hid and now can’t remember where he hid it. He saw it in the back of my SUV when he was helping unload groceries a month ago but it’s gone missing since. It’s the video game he’s wanted and now he wants my husband to go and buy another copy but my husband has refused, saying we’ll find it eventually. I have to agree. The kid is getting enough other things to keep him busy for a while.
We’ve always given our son the hope that Santa Claus does exist. When he was young, we lived in south Florida, and the mall Santa there really looked like the genuine article. All the other Santas he saw were “helpers,” but the one at the mall was real, staying in warm Florida before heading up to the North Pole in time for his Christmas Eve run. I had Christmas letters sent to him, and we tracked Santa’s progress on NORAD’s website. He emailed Santa when he was around five, and got a response from him, confirming in his mind that Santa was real.
But now he’s a very mature and smart eleven year old. He notices the ads on TV. He reads the return addresses on packages delivered. I think he wants to believe that Santa is real, but the forces are making it questionable. And I’m afraid that this is the end of his innocence. He’ll question everything about the Easter Bunny next. No more hidden eggs for him to find. No more hidden Easter basket. He’s becoming an adult too soon. My husband believed in Santa Claus until he was thirteen. I, on the other hand, was shown that Santa Claus isn’t real when I was about five. My brother, who is three years older than me, set out to prove it one Christmas when we still shared a bedroom. He lined up all his toy cars and trucks across the doorway to our bedroom, because he knew there were Christmas gifts stored in our closet. When my father came in to our bedroom in the middle of the night, he tripped over the toys and fell. My brother triumphantly announced, “See, I told you!” My innocence had come to an end.
I loved being the mom who filled the stockings on Christmas Eve, after my son was tucked in bed. I snuck gifts out of their hiding place and put them under the tree. We didn’t have stockings growing up, and now we have a fireplace to hang them above. No more questions as to how Santa would get in the house. In Florida, we had to convince our son that Santa could squeeze himself down a water pipe from the roof. We left glitter and oats around the front walk, a sure sign that the reindeer had been there. We ate the cookies and drank the milk and left a thank you note from Santa, along with a few gnawed on carrots (I guess the reindeer were full). Conor ate it up and truly believed, and it’s sad that he doesn’t anymore.
We’re Christians, and make it clear to our son that the most important part of Christmas is that it celebrates Jesus’ birth. We lit our candles during Advent and said the prayers associated with each. We go to church on Christmas Eve and Conor was first a sheep in the nativity play, and then got the lead, as Joseph, the next year. I think that’s when the acting bug caught him. Now he’s actively looking for acting gigs, and has an agent who thinks he shows great promise as an actor. Maybe one day he’ll play Joseph again, but on television. I hope he always has the faith in God that we’ve instilled in him. We’ll miss the innocence of believing in Santa, but as long as he still realizes what Christmas is all about, that will be fine with me.