In our house, we talk a lot about Christmas magic at Christmastime.
I wrestle with whether the Jolly Old Elf is a distraction from Jesus Christ this time of year, and what to do about it. For me, a woman nearing middle age, who's felt the loneliness and pains of life and the succor of having a Savior, there is no more important person to honor in December than the babe in Bethlehem. I believe in him. I love him.
But, this year, for my children, and for the people in this world who do not feel the same as me, I'm holding on to Santa. I'm on board with reindeer that fly. I support mystical elves who move around to different shelves in the house. I support family planning to put out cookies on Christmas Eve.
Anything that promotes goodness this time of year, be it secular or spiritual, I'm in.
In years past, I've been a bit hedgy about Santa. When my children ask about his origin, I've never tried to bluff too hard. And so, some of them have become skeptical. Especially my middle child, who is about to turn 8.
He is a tough nut to crack.
He puts on a very tough act. He could be classified as the class clown — he will do anything for a laugh, from belching with a force to shake the walls to passing gas in inappropriate ways. He enjoys bothering his brother and sister. He will ignore their pleas to leave them alone, and he will find ways to up the ante. He is slow to listen when I ask him to desist.
He will say no when I ask him to help in some way, but he usually does it anyway. He will tell his sister he doesn't care when she says he hurt her feelings, but if anyone dared to cross her, he would be their enemy for life. He defiantly jumps on the bed and tells his parents we are the worst, then asks to be cuddled at the end of the day.
He is so young, so tender, and yet, he tries so hard to be so rebellious.
As a middle child, maybe he feels like he needs to shout to be heard. Just before Thanksgiving, I hurt his feelings. His class had a program where parents were invited to come listen to them read. It was on a Tuesday, a day I couldn't attend, but I completely forgot to talk to him about it. He would have understood, had I explained I couldn't be there, or had I made special arrangements, but I dropped the ball. I completely forgot about the day and when I greeted him at home at the end of the day, he said nothing.
He never said a word until about a month later when I saw a note about the day in my planner and realized my mistake. I immediately found him to apologize, surprised he never told me what I had done. When I talked to him, I asked him if he was mad. He said yes. I said, why didn't you say anything to me?
"Well, by the next day, I wasn't mad anymore," he said. He had frankly forgiven me.
Last week, a friend came over to play in the snow. My son, who was wearing a waterproof coat, pants and snow boots, noticed immediately his friend didn't have a snow jacket on. He asked me to find his friend some snow clothes, so I went downstairs to dig through our boxes in the basement, but I came up empty-handed. During that time, his friend had gone back home to make sure he didn't have a snow coat, but he too was empty-handed. The next thing I saw when I came upstairs was my son's winter coat, taken off and laid on a chair in the kitchen. He was outside running around in the snow with his friend, both of them in sweatshirts, having a wonderful time.
I knew immediately what he had done, and why. And he didn't say a word about it. Not then, and not later.
Then a week or so after that, my son asked me to make him a special lunch without a peanut butter sandwich. I asked him why.
"I want to sit with (Johnny) at lunch," he said. "He's allergic to peanuts so he has to sit at a table by himself."
I made my son a ham sandwich and asked him how lunch was at the end of the day. It was great, he said. His friend was grateful to have some company. Nobody had asked my son to do what he did, he decided on his own. And in his own quiet way, he followed through without asking for any accolades or attention.
And so, when my son told me Santa wasn't real, I decided this could not be. This young boy, with so many strong emotions, so many frustrations and such a big heart, deserves a little bit of magic this time of year. He may put on a front that he is tough, and he may say that delivering toys from the North Pole is unrealistic, but I think deep inside, he is scanning the skies at night, looking for a sleigh.
And so, my son, I want you to know it's OK to believe. There really is magic in this world, and it is all around you.