Santa died and it totally sucked.
The day of Santa’s death started out like a normal Sunday. We were in the beautiful space between basketball and baseball season where there are a small handful of days without practices and games. We invited family over and had a lazy day spending time together. But, while playing basketball in the driveway with his father and his uncle, my oldest saw an opportunity and took it.
The first one to die was the Tooth Fairy. Logic did that poor fairy in. My son and some of his friends had talked at school and compared notes about the Tooth Fairy. The numbers didn’t add up. Some kids got $1. Some kids got $2. Some kids got $5. Some kids got $10. So, he asked for confirmation that the Tooth Fairy was “just the parents doing it.”
He’s 11 1/2 and they were completely caught off guard for such a conversation in the middle of a driveway basketball game. So, they told him the truth.
It quickly unraveled from there.
A few hours later, as we all were settling into bed, my oldest seized another opportunity. He stood at the foot of my bed as I snuggled under the covers. I was feeling safe and cozy in my fuzzy socks and my warm comforter. He took advantage of the quiet, peaceful moment and said
“So…if the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, how can any of it be real? Has it all been a lie?”
I’d feared this moment since the very first time we talked about Santa with this child. I had practiced my response over and over in my head. I had bookmarked great articles and saved suggested letters and activities to help tell the children the truth. It was going to be perfect!
As soon as the question left his lips, I could feel an uncomfortable smile creeping across my face. Damn it! Why do I have to smile and giggle when I’m uncomfortable?
“Mom!!!!! You are the worst liar!!”
We went to his room and laid down side by side in his bed where I told him everything. By the end of it, I was crying and he had tears in his eyes. To say the truth broke his heart would be an understatement. With every question I answered, I could see him slipping further away from the childhood version of him.
We cried together and every few days since then he has asked another question about it all as he tries to fit this new information into his understanding of the world. Now, I know Santa didn’t really die and Christmas is all about magic and magic is in our hearts and all that happy stuff. But, in that moment, when my oldest looked at me and asked “Has it all been a lie?”, if felt like a death.
While I am excited to have him take on some of the magic by helping keep Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and all of their friends alive for his brother, I find that he and I are grieving.
Someone once told me that children are gifts we have for 18 years and then we have to set them free. That was two years ago and I realized then that I was already halfway through my “gift.” I thought time was moving fast then but it was nothing compared to how quickly it is moving now. Perhaps more so now in his death than when he was alive, Santa is reminding me of the magic of childhood and just how important it is to hold onto it for as long as we possibly can.