On December 18th, my son asked me if there was a Santa Claus. We had just stepped on an escalator at the mall and were passing one of those elaborate Santa Centers. You know, the one with the very real appearing St. Nick who has all the worker "elves". Anxious and exhausted parents hope to contain their sniffling toddlers who are all ornately dressed in red and green fleece jumpsuits complete with curled up footies. Adding to the frenzy is the length of the line - which if you follow it from Santa's magic velvet high chair in front of Sears, goes around the mall elevators, through the Dippin Dots kiosk all the way around and past the Helzberg Diamonds. There you watch a desparate Mom and Dad pull up with their double baby stroller and diaper bags, holding one of the babies while the 18 month old runs over to the Disney Store to look at the giant Mickey in the window, who then turns around and cries because it's five times bigger than he is!!
I wanted to shout from the Heavens, "There is no Santa Claus". I imagine half the parents would cuss me out while the other half would smile and walk out to their cars, breathing a sigh of relief. I know several parents who told their kids the truth from the beginning. For them, there is none of this holiday pressure. It's simply the birth of our Savior and that's it. I respect them for that approach. It takes a lot of courage to go against our culture like that.
My wife and I decided to live the lie until the kids were keen enough to figure it out on their own and then ask us for confirmation. And thus brings me to my story today. Well, since I had both kids with me, I decided to hold off from telling the truth, until he asked again when we were not with the younger sister, or I'd just wait until right after Christmas to spill the beans. What would it hurt to have one more Christmas with visions of sugar plums dancing in his head.
On Christmas Eve, my son set out to trap Santa - if he really existed that is. He put a motion detector alarm by the Christmas tree. That way when jolly, but unsuspecting St. Nick walked by, he would receive the startle of his life by this 90 decibel, ear piercing alarm. My son said, "Well Dad, if there is a Santa, he'll trip the alarm and I'll wake up. If you are Santa, then you'll know about the alarm and not set it off". I have to admit, he had a full-proof plan. So like the Grinch, I turned to my little "Who" and quickly said, "though I like your plan, I don't want to be awakened at 2 AM and find Santa in cardiac arrest on my living room floor". He saw my wisdom and aborted the plan.
The next day, the kids ran to the Christmas tree, full of amazement and joy! What a special time. They were wide-eyed, telling each other what Santa had brought them in their stockings. My wife and I soaked up the moment. Later that day, my son came up to me and whispered that he knew Santa was really Mom and I. He said that he recognized one of the boxes under the tree from one that had been delivered to our house by UPS earlier that week. He found his own confirmation.
So I asked him if he was sad, mad or confused. He told me that he had never been happier in his life. He went on to express his gratefulness and appreciation to the best mom and dad ever! Because, as he said, he now knew that his parents were the ones who gave those really cool, and sometimes expensive gifts. Then a couple hugs later he gave me my best Christmas gift ever - on his face was the look of complete joy and adoration for his dad. That was a special moment and I will treasure it forever.
A couple of weeks later he lost a tooth. The next day he pulled the money out from under his pillow and showed me how much the tooth fairy had brought him. I looked amazed that a tooth was going for that much money these days. Then he looked at me and said, "Thanks Dad". With a knowing nod I told him he was welcome.
Yep, my boy is growing up. All that make-believe was fun while it lasted, but now it's time to leave the past in the past and move on with him. By God's grace I hope it's as much fun as the first 8 years have been.