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The Day My Son Stopped Believing

I knew it was going to happen. Like most red-blooded American parents, we perpetuated the Santa Claus myth knowing full well that our bright boy would one day wise up to our plot. He'd figure out the "truth," and deep down I'd prepared for him to be bitterly disappointed; maybe even fight feelings of betrayal. But what he did instead sort of stunned me.

Just the other day we were talking about Santa when my 10-year-old looked at me with a smirk. "Mom," he said. "C'mon. I know how it works."

"Whatever do you mean?" I asked in mock innocence. "How does it work?"

He proceeded to whisper, so as not to give away our little secret to his 7-year-old brother, that he knew we bought the presents. At first I was not sure how to respond to this conversation between us. Should I fain shock? Should I stand by our contention that a man in a big red suit ho-ho-hoed his way down our chimney and sprinkled goodies around our tree? Do I deflect?

That's when he really stunned me. "Thank you," he said, wrapping his arms around my neck in a hug. 

This was not the result I was anticipating. He was fine. Pleased, even, it seemed, to be in on the secret. But inside I was shattered. Here it was, the first of many layers of innocence falling away from my once-little boy.

I'm not going to pretend that this didn't sting. In fact, I cried myself to sleep that night, praying to God that He could stretch these years just a little further. But I know the truth. Growing up is inevitable.

Today it's Santa Claus. Tomorrow it's the Easter Bunny (not that he still believes in the Easter Bunny, but oh, the day when he decides he's too old to hunt eggs!)

I often feel that I'm standing at the top of a snow cap, holding desperately to a sled threatening to plunge down the hill at full force. I know my grip is slipping and any minute the sled of childhood will be out of my grasp heading toward maturity. This is the part that hurts, that I can't stop it no matter how much I tighten my hold.

So, now we stand in the light of truth. I realize I can't have a stranglehold on my children. They will grow up. And Santa, unfortunately, is one of the first of childish things my son is leaving behind him. Still, I think with a smile at his reaction. Instead of bitterness, his was an attitude of thanksgiving. Instead of ruining his brother's illusions, he showed tremendous graciousness and joy in participating with us.

He's eager to talk up Santa to his brother, and even, if begrudgingly, smiled for a photo with the big jolly man this year. My son is participating in the fun, and that, it seems, is making Christmas even more special for him this year. 

When I think of it in this new light, I realize it's not so bad, this growing up business. Eventually, there will be no more serious Santa talk in our home, but it doesn't have to mean the magic is gone. It just means the magic is maturing.

With that in mind, I think I'll loosen my grip a little on that sled. Instead, I've decided to jump on and enjoy the ride with my kids as long as they will let me. And, who knows? Maybe the scenery gets even better from here.

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