I’m still kind of reeling from the day Mari asked for the truth about Santa Claus and I broke it down so it’ll forever be broke. I swear the girl cried for three days. Three. And another one, too, after she came back with more questions and I fessed up about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. She was 10 and in the fifth grade and I figured I’d better give it to her straight, no chaser because, well, she kept asking and none of her little grown butt friends thought him real and it was only a matter of time before someone called her a “baby” because she was still a believer.
Big mistake. Huge. At least that’s what I thought after I told my baby the truth and made her cry. Because despite that absolutely none of it made sense—a dude riding around the entire world in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, delivering gifts to every kid in just one night—she wanted it to be true. Was desperate for it to be.
I got back in her good graces with a little bribery—a trip to our local Carvel was just the ticket—and a long talk about the magic of Christmas. I explained to her that even if Santa isn’t real, the spirit of the season most certainly is—that the beauty of the holiday is that we get to celebrate the birth of the Lord and Savior, exchange presents, listen to festive music, eat great food and enjoy the company of people we love most. The magic, then, isn’t in the myth of the guy in the red suit; it’s in the beauty of what’s real—Jesus, family, love.
Mari understood where I was coming from, and by Christmas Day, she was so amped about keeping the spirit alive for her little sister that she was (kinda) all right knowing that it was really her parents putting Christmas presents under the tree. (It helped that she still got laced with presents, even if said presents weren’t left by some fat guy in a red and white suit.)
Still, my baby, Lila, is a believer. And at age 10 and in the 5th grade, she’s still writing letters to Santa and counting down the days until he climbs into our house and makes all her wishes come true, and making plans, too, to track his whereabouts on our computer, via Google, like we do every Christmas Eve.
And you know what? I’m not about to steal that joy from her. I’m not ready to tell her because she’s not ready to hear it, no matter what her friends and classmates believe in their homes, no matter that none of it makes an ounce of sense. It’s okay. I mean, I believed until I was 12, and truly, the only reason I let go of the Santa fantasy was because I heard my dad pulling my new bicycle out of the trunk of the car—the same one Santa had allegedly left under the tree. I was bummed, but I didn’t make a big deal about it. Santa was that dude and then he was not and that’s all there was to it. Life went on.
So yeah, if you come around the way, the big one knows the truth about Santa and the little one is still holding on to the magic and for this, I’m grateful, because I’m a firm believer that children should be allowed to be children—that the magic and sanctity of being a kid should be respected and protected as long as humanly possible. I’m okay with her holding onto the magic of Christmas, and her childhood, just a little while longer. *snaps fingers and hums Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—the Jackson 5 version, of course.*
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.