Holding on to the Mystery

Santa Claus with a little girl
Image via Wikipedia

I’m beginning to realize how brief is the period of time in which the kids both understand the magic and believe in it. We spend so much time trying to get kids to grow up–talking responsibility, bigness, and so on–that it’s hard to switch gears and ask them to stay little so that things like Santa Claus and the Advent calendar retain their mystery as long as possible.

At 5 1/2, Alex is in a strange, nebulous place between credulity and canniness. He’s starting to ask questions, he’s starting to put the pieces together, but he hasn’t gotten there yet. Here’s one example (there are many others): My brother-in-law sent us an “elf on a shelf,” along with a book that tells how the elf flies to Santa every night to report on the kids’ behavior. Alex loved the book, but he stopped me before we even reached the end. “But you know, this is just pretend,” he said. “The elf doesn’t go anywhere.”

So Santa has been a small challenge this year. Last year, Alex knew precisely what he wanted, and he told us over and over for three months leading up to Christmas. This year, he didn’t have anything specific in mind until he looked at the Toys R Us catalog and picked out two things that were wildly inappropriate–one piece of (ahem) toy that got terrible reviews for breaking right away, and a Thomas set aimed at three-year-olds, which we knew he wouldn’t play with once he got it. What to do? As parents, we want so badly to give our children exactly what they wish for, as long as it’s not harmful. But then there’s the practical consideration. And yet, if we ignore what he tells Santa Claus, we risk destroying the trust he has in the myth, and that’s a giant leap toward the end of the myth altogether.

So when I got this email from Christian yesterday mid-morning, it warmed my heart:

I talked to Alex about Santa this morning in the truck. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Are you excited about Christmas and Santa coming?
A: Yes.
Me: I hope Santa brings you guys a lot of presents.
A: Well, I only asked for two things.
Me: Yes, well, you know, sometimes Santa doesn’t always bring us what we want because he thinks we’ll like something more. Like one time, instead of what I asked for, Santa brought me a HUGE lego castle, that had horses, and knights, and…….
A: OOOOOOOO! Did it have a king and queen?
Me: Yes, and I think that Grandma and Grandpa Basi might still have it.
……. (more conversation about lego castle)
Me: So, sometimes, Santa brings us things that we might like even more!
A: Yeah, that would be OK too.

God bless Alex, and God bless my husband. I just want to give them both big hugs and kisses. With a little chewing on Alex for good measure. 🙂 But he’s getting too big to be chewed on. He’s told me so.

(Sniff, sniff.)