Thursday, November 16, 2006
“Mom, the kids at school say there’s no such thing as Santa,” Tyler speaks into the silence of him drawing and me washing dishes.
“It’s really just you and Dad that put the presents there.” he says with certainty, shooting me a look out of the corner of his sky-blue eyes. I glance over my shoulder, Tyler head bent over to the left, hand busily moving over the paper while he draws.
“Yeah right,” I answer rolling my eyes and shaking my head, my usual response. I turn from the kitchen sink to face him, “Like I have the money to buy all that stuff and mysteriously sneak it in here Christmas Eve. Sure,” I snicker with my best ‘you’re crazy’ look over the top of my eyes and then return to the dishes.
Tyler’s foot taps on the chair and I see his reflection in the window, lips puckered and pulled to one side in contemplation. “You’re gonna have to tell me you know.” he announces to the back of me.
It was the second time recently that I had been commissioned with those words by my ten-year-old. The first time was in less familiar territory. Bounding off the bus in his usual reckless style, Tyler zipped in the door, flung his green back pack to the floor and a bubbled a rhythmic chant. “Put the quarter in the vending machine and out pops a baby…” the sing song tone carried the ‘naa naa na naa naa’ sound of teasing.
“What are you saying?” I asked, not liking the sound of it.
“Put the quarter in the vending machine?” Tyler looks at me eyebrows raised, one side of his face pulled into a dimple, “Out pops a baby?” his head bobbles back and forth, eyes wide. He looks at the ceiling in disbelief at my confusion, apparently expecting a different reaction.
“You know,” he sighs, “put the quarter in the vending machine…out pops a baby, get it?”
“Where did you hear that?” I stammered, feeling lips roll tight.
“On the bus.”
“Well don’t say that again and you know where babies come from.”
“Did you and Dad put the quarter in the vending machine?” he asks with the sound of the devil in his voice.
The time had come.
The big talk was looming.
I wasn’t ready.
I did not anticipate it to be this way. I had planned the dreaded task to be on my terms with a well rehearsed monologue and his father beside me. “Any questions?” we would ask after dropping the bomb, our sweet blue-eyed boy looking bewildered.
No, impromptu was not going to work for me. I reached in desperation for an adult way out of the confrontation. Smiling knowingly, I launched the perfect stall.
“It seems that kids are talking about some grown up things on your bus and the information they are giving you may be incorrect,” I hear myself say like a 1950’s librarian. “Your father and I will sit down and talk with you about grown up things together, but first, you need to show me that you are ready for grown up information.”
But how on earth do I discuss birds and bees and the facts of life with a child who still believes in Santa? I am certain it is clearly stated in the parenting book somewhere that these truths are to be revealed in alphabetical order, and that means Santa before sex! As long as he believed in the big guy, I was off the hook.
“Is there such thing as Santa?” he repeats as I stare stupidly at the dish in my hand, my stall tactic foiled. Until now, I have been safe with the ‘I don’t know about you but I still believe in Santa’ answer, but the alphabetical drum is beating and I must begin to march.
“You are asking me about more grown up information,” I lead into my next stall, “and I will talk with you about that tonight if you can show me that you are ready.”
Tyler twists his mouth while he thinks about this deal and goes back to his drawing. A couple more hours of innocence and I secretly hope he will forget by this evening.
After dinner, my son clutches my arm and marches me off to my office, silky blond strands shifting left and right as he walks with determination and plops himself on the white wicker love seat, arms crossed like ‘now I’ve got you.’ I wonder to myself why I haven’t prepared a lovely explanation, justifying why we have lied to him all of these years.
Door closed, air thick, he begins. “Look me in the eye,” he says “and answer me the truth!” My throat tightens as I stare back at my judge and jury, stomach flipping with anticipation. “Is there such thing as Santa?”
I muster up every ounce of mother strength inside; meet his steal blue eyes in a locked gaze and answer, “Santa is absolutely, positively REAL.”
Tyler’s nose crunches, eyebrows pull together as he jumps to his feet, hands thrown up and slapped back down at his sides. “How can you look right at me and LIE?” he says in horror, pacing.
I grab him by both shoulders and pull him square in front of me, eyes locked once more.
“Santa is kindness and love and the spirit of giving. He is a magic place that lives inside each one of us and comes to life in the feeling of warmth when we give to others and make them smile, and that is, without a doubt, very, very real.”
Tyler’s shoulders come lower, frustration easing out.
I look at him with a one sided smile. “There comes a time in a person’s life when he crosses over to the adult side of Santa and it then becomes his responsibility to keep that magic alive for all of the children in the world.”
Tyler’s eyes soften as I continue, “You are now part of making that magic and keeping the spirit of Santa alive and real for the younger children.”
“Kind of like an elf?” He asks, eyes twinkling.
“Exactly,” I answer, “Welcome to the other side.”
He breaths deep and sighs, “I promise I won’t tell Trevor,” he offers sliding his hands deep into his pockets and rocking back on his heels, very grown up looking. A dimpled grin spreads wide across his face, erasing the look of worry and betrayal. Lips roll together in the way of holding a secret and he leaves my office, spirit inflated with new magic.
I sit down feeling warm and relaxed. I worried so much about pulling the joy out of Christmas by facing this truth, but now the magic lives on; the loss of innocence replaced by the mature joy of giving. I don’t know if I can find the same ease for the next alphabetical truth, but this moment is a parenting gift and truly holds the magic that is Santa.