I wrote a post a few weeks ago about my daughter and her love of books. Normally, this would be a great thing to a parent. In the age of X-Boxes and i-Pods, when everything is electronic and shiny and instantaneous, reading a plain old book can seem pretty dull to an eight-year-old. Not so for her. She reads more than I do.
All that reading included Snow Day, in which her father went ahead and wrote that Santa was not real and that flying reindeer and sleighs and Christmas magic was all a lie. The sudden realization that she’d either had or was about to read that chapter bonged into my head late one night, which resulted in me sneaking into her bedroom and mangling a copy of my own book. I wasn’t sure if she’d gotten that far into the novel or not, wasn’t sure if she still believed or didn’t, and wasn’t sure what I was going to do about it.
Now I know. Sort of.
It is Christmas week. My house is abuzz in last minute shopping, frantic wrapping, and the sugar-induced spasms of two small children who can barely contain themselves. They are both awash in the sheer beauty of Christmas. It’s the lights and the singing and the promise of two school-free weeks, the gifts that are on the way and the Happy Birthday Jesus.
Every year I fear the joy of Christmas will abandon me, that the pressures of having to buy and do will get transform me from Linus telling everyone about the real meaning of Christmas to Scrooge telling everyone to just leave him alone. But my kids keep me believing and my insides soft. Children can have that affect on you.
My son is six, that perfect age when the line between magic and fact is nonexistent. To him, Santa is just as real as anyone else. Flying reindeer? Of course! He’s seen a platypus, so why not flying reindeer? Platypuses are weird.
I’ve seen no apparent changes in my daughter’s behavior. She seems as excited as ever, and she’s mentioned Santa often. I think we’re in the clear, for this year anyway.
And it shouldn’t matter. I know this. Sooner or later, the truth will come out. Besides, Christmas isn’t really about Santa at all. It’s a fact my kids know deep down, evidenced by the carols they sang at the Christmas pageant at church and the birthday cake they’ve made for Jesus.
But I also know this—it does matter. For my daughter, it matters much. Her diabetes has forced her to grow up long before she should. She knows life isn’t fair and that this world can be just as cold as it can be warm. She is not the boisterous child her brother is. She ponders and thinks. Just like me.
I’ve seen her thinking a lot over the past weeks.
She’ll say it’s nothing or that she was just looking at the lights on the tree, but there’s more. With her, there’s always more.
Sometimes I think she read that chapter in Snow Day after all and she’s just figuring things out on her own. And that she doesn’t really believe in Santa anymore, but she wants to. She wants to hold on.
I hope she does.
Her letter to Santa sits here on my desk at work (I told her I’d mail it, and I couldn’t very well stash it at the house. I’ve learned my lesson). Included were the usual eight-year-old little girl’s wishes, along with some that drifted much more into God’s territory to grant than jolly old Saint Nick’s.
There is a P.S. at the end, though—
“I’ll have cookies for you on Christmas Eve and also a list of questions. I need you to fill them out please. I love you.”
I don’t know what those questions will be, but I guarantee you this: I’m bringing my A game.