Wednesday, December 23, 2015

When Your Child Starts Having Doubts About Santa

Christmas is such a magical time of year. It is filled with special time with family and friends, lots of fun and exciting activities. There are delicious treats, Christmas carols and lights, and of course, gifts! Our family is all about the fun and tradition and all about this being the season of giving. We select a charity and give donations, we make lots of unique hand-made crafty presents, my daughters choose gifts for one another and there are gifts under the tree from mom and dad. Our family is also a Santa Claus family and our children have been raised from their very first Christmas to believe that Santa comes on Christmas Eve and places gifts under the tree too. But, now, my oldest child is starting to have doubts about Santa.

This all started last year, in fact.  We were  at our little town's Christmas celebration. She turned to us and asked how Santa got to the celebration so quickly. For one thing, there was no sleigh or reindeer in sight and the other thing; she had seen Santa earlier in the day at a train show. Thankfully, she didn't notice that the Santas didn't look anything alike and we quickly told her that Santa travelled on his sleigh but it just wasn't nearby. She had just turned four in October so we blew it off as simple curiosity, not thinking she could possibly be truly doubting Santa at this young age. We wrapped up a wonderful Christmas in 2014 with no other questions or doubts. 

Then came December 1st, 2015  and out came our little Elf on the Shelf (his name is Roafe). Roafe made his 2015 debut by dancing with one of our wooden figurines which allowed a solid view of his back side. And his tag. His. Tag. And moments after being reconnected with her Elf, my daughter looked up at me with puzzled eyes and asked why on Earth did this live, little man have a tag. I'm a terrible liar so my response was something along the lines of 'I have no idea' and her response was, "I think he's really a toy." Well, if he is a toy how does he fly back and forth to the North Pole and tell Santa what you want? How does he move all over the house? Yeah, that response came after I had a bit more time to think. I hoped that would be the end and we could just enjoy our little Christmas beliefs about a jolly old man and flying elves.

A week later we happened to be discussing fairies. Keep in mind, my daughter's love and belief in fairies is likely stronger than Santa and the Easter Bunny combined. She used to tell us that she had fairy friends that were in her room and helped her fall asleep at night. So imagine my shock when she asked, "Are fairies real?" She actually asked the "R" question. No beating around the bush. No offer of speculation or theories. Just the question. Are they real? This time, my husband and I were both ready and responded at the same time, "The tooth fairy! Of course they're real!" She has already lost two teeth and she has two more loose right now. She looked at us and acknowledged this was clearly the truth. But, still, the next day I heard her telling her little sister that princesses aren't real. Finally, we were able to emphatically tell her that princesses are most definitely real (and could have zero guilt about the little white lies that have come with all the others).

In the end, she seems to be alternating from complete belief to uncertainty. She is asking very reasonable questions or making solid statements that counter the truth. Such as the story she told us about the elf at school. They put a special seed in the Elf's snow and the next day at school "Candy canes grew WITH a WRAPPER on them." But then there are also the times I have found her having long, detailed conversations with her elf about her Christmas wishes or even what she did at school. She isn't ready to admit a full fledged disbelief and I will hold onto that for this year and hope we may even get next year, too. For one thing, I want her to hold onto the magic of Christmas. They are only small once with all the hope, delight and magic that Christmas can bring. And Santa does help all of that. 

This is a great article: Why The Whole Family Benefits When Kids Believe in Santa

It is reassuring to know it is a gradual process and it allows for some critical thinking along with the fun. At this point, I'm not ready for her to blurt it out and spoil the fun for her three year old sister. We will definitely work on making sure she knows how special it is to keep it a secret, once she does learn. But for this year (the year when I have a three and five year old) I'm going to work hard to keep it a secret from both of them. So while we were watching Goofy and they start talking about not believing in Santa on the show, you better believe Netflix suddenly "stopped working" to the point that even Daddy couldn't fix it. If she figures it out, I want her to figure it out on her own - not because someone else (or a show or movie) made her doubt.

For now, I will hold onto the look on her face on Christmas morning. The moment when she steps out of her room, looks down the stairs, and sees that Santa came to visit. In that moment, I know any doubt she may have will disappear. At least for this year. And I'll know, once she does know the truth, Christmas will not really stop being magical. Because as Strega Nona says (from the book by Tomie DePaola) "Christmas has a magic of its own."