If you have children and enjoy stressing yourself out every night, you probably are approaching the time of year when certain holiday visitors come to stay with you. No, not your eccentric cousin Eddie or your in-laws. I’m talking about the kind of visitor that makes you set a nightly alarm so you don’t forget about him; the kind of visitor that makes you wake with a panic on mornings you have completely forgotten about his existence; the kind of visitor that challenges your creativity and hiding skills.
I’m talking about Santa’s helper, the “Scout Elf.”
Yes, this week has marked the return of our family’s Scout Elf, Max, and his furry little sidekick, Jolly the Reindeer. Max and Jolly watch over (read: spy on) the children during the Christmas season to see if they are being naughty or nice and then fly back to the North Pole each night to give Santa a report. The pair always returns before the next morning and they are sure to move to a new location in the house as a way to let the kids know they have been to see Santa.
With the return of Max and Jolly, my good friend Siri has once again started reminding me every night around 10PM to “move the thing” (code for “get yourself out of bed with ninja-like stealth and find somewhere different for Max and Jolly to hang out”). My yearly excel sheet is favorited on my computer again, complete with specific dates and shopping lists for when Max and Jolly will do fun things like leave snowmen donuts, make snowflake cut-outs, or build a Christmas tree out of legos. And I have already found myself, on more than one occasion, threatening my children with statements like “Do you really want to be doing that in front of Max?” or “Max can totally see this behavior right now and he’s probably going to tell Santa.”
While it’s certainly easy to let the presence of Max and Jolly stress me out, do you know what else has made its return to our family’s home this week?
The magic of Christmas.
(I know. Could I be any more hokey and cheesy?)
It’s true though. Although my kids are older now and I’m not quite so sure that my youngest still believes, the return of Max and Jolly means that my children now once again play the fun game each morning of searching for the pair, smiling with relief when they see that they have safely returned from the North Pole. Christmas music is once again often playing in the background at night, the boys rush to turn on the Christmas lights each afternoon after school, and they have started to wonder aloud when some of the traditional fun things Max does will happen.
In short, that silly little spy and his pet reindeer sure bring a whole lot of joy to our lives this time of year. It’s as if their return provides our family with the cue and permission we need to slow down, have fun, be playful, and lean into traditions.
My youngest child is 11 years old and is perched on the fence between childhood and adolescence. When it comes to the magic of Christmas, I’m honestly not so sure which side of the fence he is on. At this age, my oldest was a wholehearted believer and we knew that without a doubt but my youngest is keeping his cards much closer to his chest. We simply don’t know and our attempts to figure it out have yielded no success. As more and more of his friends, some older and some younger, have found out the story behind Santa and the Elf, a litany of questions flood my mind:
Should I let him go to school and talk about it, text his friends about it, and continue to believe so strongly just as he did when he was 5 years old?
Am I a bad mom for letting him continue to believe?
Should I protect him from the risk of being made fun of by his peers?
Should I make sure that I am the one to tell him the truth versus hearing it from someone else?
Should I write him one of those beautiful letters I see all over the internet about how to explain the magic of Santa to kids?
When I really stop to think about it and listen to my gut, the truth is that I am in no rush to force him over the fence. While I don’t want kids at school or on his sports teams to make fun of him for still believing in these things, I also don’t want to make a decision about his life based on the potential actions of some kids. What other benefit is there to telling him right now? If he does still believe, it clearly brings him joy and wonder and keeps the world feeling at least a little more safe and fun.
Right now, is that such a bad thing?
I am always saying that I wish I could put my kids into a protective bubble to shield them from the difficulties of our world. This magic of Christmas that Max, Jolly, and Santa usher in each year is a bit like that protective bubble. So, at least for now, I’m going to enjoy the bubble and I’m going to let my 11 year old enjoy the magic of Christmas for a while longer — even if it does mean I have to fine tune my stealthy ninja skills.