I knew it was time when I saw pools of childhood seriousness gathering in her dark eyes.
"I'm afraid I haven't been good enough. He might not come this year."
And just like that I knew the moment had come for the big reveal. The man with the rosy cheeks and red hat has visited and filled the stockings for several years, but Steve and I had decided his days were numbered.
What was once fun and magical had started to become a teeny bit of a burden--for all of us, it seems. Not only were the kids concerned about whether they had made the cut in terms of behavior, I'd also noticed their demands growing with each passing year.
It makes sense if you think about it. If magical Santa can do anything, then I want this, and this, and this, and this. And why does he only ever fill the stockings? Why doesn't he fill the whole room like you see in movies and books?
As a Christian family who wants Jesus at the center of our season--a family who also values social justice to our core--I wasn't happy with this ballooning "me-me-me" focus.
So the sight of my ten-year-old's lips quivering with worry confirmed my intention to tell sooner rather than later. I sat down with her on the bed that night, letting her know that as a big girl now we could share big girl secrets together.
Then I took a deep breath and out with it.
"Mommy and Daddy are SANTA!"
Her eyes grew wide with complete surprise. She hesitated a moment, then her smile spread big...and she laughed.
Long, joyful, shocked.
Next came the questions and connections.
"That's why I always recognize the wrapping paper!"
"But who eats the cookies we leave out?"
"Where did my letter go that I sent him?"
After plenty of answers and secrets told, she exhaled.
"I feel better," she said, relief clearing the creases of her forehead.
I left her room and headed to the boys. Gathering them around we did a little repeat of the same conversation, but boy-style: less tears, more noise, laughter, jumping, wrestling, tickling. (Those of you with boys well know what I mean.)
They found the news hilarious.
I've heard of children being scarred by this knowledge. I feared them naming this event twenty years down the line as one of their greatest childhood disappointments.
But I was reminded once again of their resiliency. For years they've been surrounded by this stable home culture we've attempted to knit around them. When surprises like this come along, the threads of family hold tight.
My kids know they are safe, loved, wanted. They trust us.
Santa won't be coming this year, but even better things will.
Laughter, joy, connection, wonder.
Most of all, Jesus.
So rest in peace, Santa. You were fun while you lasted, but I'm quite relieved to hang the stockings on my own this year.
"Then Ma told them something else about Santa Claus.
He was everywhere, and besides that, he was all the time.
Whenever anyone was unselfish, that was Santa Claus.
Christmas Eve was the time when everybody was unselfish.
On that one night, Santa Claus was everywhere, because everybody, all together,
stopped being selfish and wanted other people to be happy.
And in the morning you saw what that had done."
~ A Little House Christmas Treasury
(one of our favorite Christmas books,
it compiles all the Little House holiday chapters together)