Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Outgrowing Santa

Every parent knows the moment is inevitable. I think The Boy is onto us about Santa.

He hasn’t actually said as much, and heaven knows I don’t want to plant the seed just yet. But last weekend when the four of us went out to see Santa -- and stand in a line two hours for the privilege -- I couldn’t help but notice a telltale indifference.

The Girl was excited. To her, Santa is still real. She gave serious thought to the questions she would ask him, and got a little shy when she finally saw him. (She asked if he had any children. He responded that he thinks of the children of the world as his children.)

But not TB. He seemed a little sullen as we went, and even when we finally saw the big guy, he was no more than ‘game.’ He allowed TG to enjoy the moment, but didn’t seem to care much himself. He wasn’t snarky or contrary or brittle about it, though; he respected the moment, even if he didn’t feel it.

I was proud of the way he handled it. Although he can be goofy and frenetic, he can also show surprising poise. This summer, when I had the first Sex Talk with him, he was almost preternaturally calm. He asked the questions he had, and asked questions as I explained things, but never got silly or jumpy or shy. He knows what not to talk to his sister about, which is a relief. He seems to understand that just because you know something exciting and new doesn’t mean that you immediately have to share it with the world.

Here, too, he showed that maturity that he otherwise seems to hide. He didn’t do anything to interfere with his sister’s enjoyment of Santa. Santa may not be real, but she is, and he knew enough to respect her joy. I was immensely proud of him for being so classy.

As proud as I was of him, though, it was hard not to miss the little guy who lit up when Santa came to the house on a fire truck. There was a time when the combination of “Santa” and “fire truck” was just about the coolest thing he could ever imagine.

Now, that little boy is a tweener, and he wants an ipod for Christmas.

Unlike his sister, he always had one of those faces where you could see from toddlerhood what he would look like as he got older. As much fun as it is watching him grow into himself, the surprises have been few and far between. He’s a sweet, handsome kid who is on his way to being a sweet, handsome teenager, and eventually a sweet, handsome adult. For all of his goofiness and random obsessions -- the kid knows more about hurricanes than anybody I know -- he already has a bit of an old soul. When things are difficult or delicate, he suddenly shows a maturity that many adults can’t muster. He understands that his actions and statements affect other people, and he takes care to protect them when he can. Though tall for his age, he’s a gentle giant.

Merry Christmas, TB. Thank you for letting TG savor the gift of wonder that you’re slowly outgrowing.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

I tried to read that letter to my eldest when she confronted me about Santa Claus but I choked up and couldn't continue. I think this year I'll let my younger read it herself.
When I was about TB's age, and began expressing skepticism about Santa, my father wisely pointed out that if there is no Santa, there are no presents. 30+ years later, I believe as fervently in Santa as I did when I was 5.
Glad TB has clued into the myth and has decided NOT to share--although overall, I'm Santa hostile. I was brought up without Santa, particularly with my atheist Grand Mama on the prowl against "magical thinking" that needed to be stamped out. I can remember her asking me a host of "doubt-raising" questions at age 4, including, "If Santa is supposed to come down the chimney, where does your chimney lead?" I immediately answered "To the furnace."

Grandma merely smiled and smiled and then complimented me on my good logic. She never told me flat out, "there's no such thing," but the chimney question was the clincher for me.

Many of my contemporary friends are horrified that I didn't experience Santa, but eh! It is, in my estimation, capitalist twaddle. If one needs a central lie for a holiday celebration, what's the point?
what's the point?

Perhaps Santa is "capitalist twaddle." But it is also an age old story, rooted in the generosity of someone who wanted to help a family. If we as a culture are defined by our myths, that's one I'd love to carry forward.

Some of my proudest moments have come when I've accomplished something other people dismissed as being as unlikely as fairytales. There's value in learning to believe in things that are not yet physically realized or "true". It is in the tension between vision and pragmatism that great things are accomplished.
My sister has five kids spread out over 10 years, so Santa could have had a pretty rough ride in her house. When one of the kids would call her on Santa, she would pull them aside and tell them that she was Santa Claus, and now they were as well. Each child became the guardian of Santa for her younger sisters. I always thought that was a good, generous, and sweet solution.
Well said, Ivory. Calugg, you are certainly entitled to your opinions, but for many children it is more than "capitalist twaddle". Some parents rightly teach their children the real reason that Christmas is celebrated is that it is Christ's birthday. And that is what we are celebrating, Santa or no Santa.
Last night my little boy helped me make pizza for the first time... sat on the stool next to the counter, banged the cheese grater against the wall, and stole olives off the pie. It was great... and all I could think about was how much I missed the little guy who would fall asleep on my chest lying on the couch.

It goes fast.
My son at age 5 saw Santa Claus, the sleigh, and the reindeer flying over the roof of our house and we're Jewish! Earlier in the day, he had told our Rabbi that he didn't believe in God.
What? There’s no Santa? Really? Are you kidding me? :)

Been there with my kids, and I applaud TB’s decorum and maturity.

A fellow Dean who still believes in the big guy with the funny red suit.
When things are difficult or delicate, he suddenly shows a maturity that many adults can’t muster. He understands that his actions and statements affect other people, and he takes care to protect them when he can

Sounds like the perfect administrator....
Dean Dad, thanks for sharing.

I'm sure the boy will love to read these lines in a few years (that is once he is done with his teens). This is such a lovely way - between the lines - to say how much you love him. So, make sure you back up this blog.

Hope you enjoy the holidays!
Woah, Santa plus firetruck! Our local fire department comes around every year with Santa on a lit up firetruck, and we're out there to get our candy canes and give a few bucks for the FD charity. Hey, we're in our 50s. Santa's a great guy.
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