At my house we are preparing to break the spell over one of the first deceptions we perpetrated on our children. That is correct, we are bracing to break the news about Santa Claus. It is a moment that I feel a little apprehension about. That moment when one or both of my kids ask us if Santa is real and expect a real answer from us.
I know I shouldn’t feel worried. I know this is a rite of passage most western kids experience. I know because I did and I still love the Christmas season, and I had no hesitation perpetuating the myth when it was my turn to do so.
However, when I step back for a moment and look at what is happening I am encouraged. This story we told them as kids has turned into more of a mystery and less of a deception, just as it did for us all those years ago.
As it stands right now they broach the subject we respond with questions like: “Well, what do you think?” or “who do you think ate the cookies you left?” We keep waiting to see where the line of questioning goes. Every time one or the other of them asks we’ve seen them probe a little further. Sometimes they pause and you can see their minds at work. Other times they begin to lay their case out with the clues they have amassed. Like when my youngest noticed that the wrapping paper Santa used matched the paper we had been using. Or when my oldest had to discount the validity of shopping mall Santas because there were just too many of them for them all to be real.
I remember putting the clues together and figuring it out, long before I was ready to admit it to my parents. There was a window of time that I knew what was true, but wasn’t ready to give up the magic. If my kids are there now I’m more than happy to let them hold on to that magic for as long as they want or need to.
For the time being it is a fascinating experience to watch their growing minds work. Sifting the evidence uncovering the clues. Their critical thinking skills working at a problem that they will eventually solve. When they discover the inconsistencies we let them ponder them, because a great mystery is fun to solve.
We don’t try to sell it anymore that time has long passed, it is a waiting game now. We play along as they play along, and soon (sooner than we are probably ready for), they will lay out their case and we will celebrate their discovery with them.
We will congratulate them on their thinking and reward them with the truth that the rest of us know. And with that welcome them into the next stage of life. We will find new ways to celebrate this holiday season together. Ways that don’t forget the myth that made Christmas Eve a magical part of our childhood, but that celebrate it in a new way with fond remembrance of our treasured youth.
(This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project )