Cue the carols and the jingle bells and the egg nog — all the folks are getting their Christmas on this time of year, including four year old Mary Tyler Son. Except, little logical thinker that he is, he’s been asking a lot of questions about Santa. Hard questions that lead me to believe he will lose his belief in Mr. Kris Kringle a hell of a whole lot sooner than I thought he would.
What on earth is a Mom to do?
Seriously — what do you do when your kid, at four, is outgrowing the magic, or as some (but not me) would say, myth, of Santa? Kids need magic. Adults need kids to need magic, cause, let’s be honest, we live vicariously through them for that kind of thing. I was a little shocked and heartbroken to hear his questions repeated over a few days this week.
- Where are Santa’s elves, reindeer, and sled when he is visiting with all the kids?
- How does he make reindeer fly?
- Why does he say HO HO HO?
- Is he (the guy at the mall he takes his pictures with) just a person dressed up like Santa?
- How can he see me when I am all the way at my house?
For better or worse, Mary Tyler Son is a bright, inquisitive child. He wants to know how, what, why, when, and where and doesn’t take “because I said so” as an appropriate answer to his questions. And, as a rule, we love to entertain his questions, to see how his mind works and is processing everything the world throws at him, including Santa Claus.
You see, I think my boy wants to believe in Santa, it’s just that the evidence doesn’t really stack up and he’s too literal and logical a thinker to ignore that evidence. Are you real, or just a man in a suit?
I posed my concern on Facebook the other day and got more than a few comments encouraging me to respond with the dictum, “You have to believe to receive.” No offense, but what works in your house might not work in mine. For my husband and I, that answer doesn’t match our style of parenting. More power to you if it meets your needs, but I was still struggling.
This morning a friend reached out and asked if I wanted to go visit Santa together with our kiddos. Why yes, yes I did. I had been encouraging Mary Tyler Son to keep track of his questions so that he could ask Santa himself. Way to pass the buck, amirite? I thought maybe the Big Guy himself could solve the problem.
Lo and behold, he did not disappoint.
Mary Tyler Son has visited with the same Santa for three years now. This man is a gem and is the real deal (Northbrook Court, yo, for all you locals). Thick beard, shiny white hair, big belly and an accent that is hard to place. British? Actor? More than anything, sort of an oratorical voice, but familiar, warm, comforting. I kid you not that every year I have wanted to crawl into his ample lap and pour out the sob story of my life.
Santa makes everything better.
My boy timidly approached him. There was no one else waiting to visit or have photos snapped, so Santa was very generous with his time. I’m not joking when I say that he spent 10-15 minutes talking with my boy, explaining things like astrophysics and how they apply to reindeer flight. The circumference of the earth was mentioned a time or two. Mary Tyler Son posed his first question: How do reindeer fly?
Sure enough, Santa had an answer. Mrs. Claus feeds the reindeer magic corn one night a year — Christmas Eve. The rest of the time, he said, they are just regular mammals, eating regular food, and walking around their pens on the North Pole. Next question!
Where are your elves and sled and reindeer? Well, at the North Pole, of course! Someone has to build the toys. Santa explained that Mrs. Clause keeps an eye on things and keeps everything running smoothly while he is away meeting children. Next question!
How do you get all the toys to all the children? This is where the astrophysics came in. Santa very creatively and patiently explained the speed with which reindeer who have ingested magic corn can fly. Mary Tyler Son was mesmerized. He was eating it up, just as those reindeer ate the corn. Honestly, I lost track of all the details and numbers that were flying around, but not my boy. He was in seventh heaven. Next question!
This is when things got serious. My boy, brave as he is, asked the question that might have held the answer he didn’t really want to hear. You see, I think my boy wants to believe in Santa, it’s just that the evidence doesn’t really stack up and he’s too literal and logical a thinker to ignore that evidence. Are you real, or just a man in a suit? I held my breath, and was grateful I wasn’t alone to field the question.
Santa bent down close to my son and looked him straight in the eye, “I’m not real. I am what you call immortal. Do you know what immortality is? It’s when you live forever and real people don’t live forever, do they? I am not a real person, I am a spirit, an immortal spirit, a miracle of wonder.” Well, there I was blubbering away, because of course we know, more than most, that real people die and there Mary Tyler Son was, nodding and agreeing. He, too, knows that real people die, and there was Santa, confirming his belief, he was not real — he was better. He was a spirit, a wonder, a miracle, immortal.
Good God. All this wisdom from a mall Santa Claus. Forget it. I am a believer. In that moment, right there, I became a believer. Because somehow, some way, that beautiful man knew exactly, I mean exactly what to say to my son that would enable him to maintain his belief. Hell, that would enable me to find my belief, lost long ago.
Thank you, mall Santa, thank you. You reminded me of the importance of hope and belief in not only our kid’s lives, but in our own. And hell, if I didn’t believe, would this have been possible:
Post script: When you’re a mom blogger, you learn that there is just about anything that can cause controversy. Last year, naive gal that I am, I learned that there was a whole anti-Santa platform of parenting. No disrespect intended, but there is a school of parenting that tells you if you encourage your child to believe in Santa, you are dealing in lies that will harm your child. I was honestly a bit shocked, but to each their own, you know? I vacinnate, I circumscise, and yes, I want my children to believe in Santa. To each their own, indeed. Merry Christmas to all!
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