So today Sariah (my 8 year old) found out about Santa Claus. We've been asking ourselves when the right time was to tell her, but not really finding any answers. Ever since she was old enough to understand "Santa" we've told her that mom and dad are Santa, she just never believed us. We would still do the whole Santa thing, and pretend we didn't know where stuff came from, but I just couldn't get around telling her that he was real, when he wasn't. So she was getting a lot of mixed signals.
When I was a kid, I believed Santa was real until probably at least 6th grade or Jr. High. I got into big embarrassing arguments with people defending his reality. (He gave me make-up, and my dad would never allow it. Explain that!!) I would get into the same arguments defending the reality of God and Christ. In my mind, I knew that "Santa" with the red hat and clothes wasn't necessarily real, but I'd concocted an elaborate theory where Jesus was really the one who left presents in our stockings. So when I'd somehow found out the truth, it made me really question the reality of God as well. I've never gotten over the sting of this betrayal, and have a hard time with faith and trust still. To this day I still cry at least once every Christmas season when I "remember" (for lack of a better word) that Santa isn't real. Ever since I had Sariah, I was trying to figure out what to do to save her the same agony. Obviously, I never found that answer.
So Sariah found out today. I'd been kind of hinting to her all month, figuring that when she was ready to find out, she would, and until she was ready, she'd keep explaining it away in her mind. Today we were talking about exchanging something, and Jerrod was asking me about the receipt, and she was like, "But that's from Santa." I said actually it's not. I put that out with the other "Santa" stuff. But that's from me. Then she kept asking questions, and I kept letting her come to her own conclusions. I think this was the worst parenting moment to date. I want to cry. I feel so terrible for her. She is just devastated. She kept looking for some shred of evidence that it was really Santa who left her her gifts.
Sariah: But Dad's not COOL enough to be Santa.
Me: Is mom?
Sariah: Yeah. So did you pick out the presents?
Me: Do you think I did?
Sariah: Well, you didn't get us presents this year, because you said they were all going to be from Santa, but you wouldn't let me look in the back of the car after shopping, was that because they were Santa presents?
Me: Is that what you think?
Then she got all teary, and everything she said just broke my heart because I could see that hers was broken.
Defiantly she says, while choking back tears, "I'm not sitting on Santa's lap next year."
"So is all the cool stuff I believed in not true?" "No Easter Bunny, No Tooth Fairy.." "The only cool powerful thing left is Jesus."
I tried pointing out that now she can be one of the "Secret Keepers" and that next Christmas she can stay up later and help put stuff in everyone's stockings, then explaining that the "Spirit of Santa" is real, and doing nice things for people, etc... "I don't really want to be a secret keeper," then more tears that the whole time she was trying not to let escape. (and I'll be the first to admit, the "Spirit of Santa" seems like quite a let down from the myth.)
It's so sad and I can't stop crying for her. I'm so glad she had this one last magical Christmas before finding out. My heart is just bleeding for her right now, and I don't know what I can do to take away the hurt. I guess we just keep hugging each other and crying together.
I still don't know what to do with Santa for my younger children. Do I take away their time of life where they can believe? Take away the magic that is Santa Claus? Or do I let them experience the pain and betrayal that finding out the truth brings? I want to always be honest with my kids, I've never told them that Santa "is" real, but is not telling them the whole truth the same as telling them a lie?
Anyway, I'm interested in your input.
(And I will soon post a bunch of posts with Christmas pictures, and joy, and humor. Maybe.)