Sunday, December 25, 2005

A New Kind of Magic

I have been trying to come up with an answer to a perplexing problem for weeks now. How do you tell your kids what they need to know about Santa Claus, now that they are getting older. Our 12-year old son was told 2 years ago about Santa, but he loved the magic of Christmas, and the story of Santa so much, that he had re-convinced himself of his childhood beliefs. He was just sure that he had seen Santa's shadow, and that he had heard reindeer on the roof. He could recall seeing a red blinking light in the sky, and was sure that it was Rudolph. Bryan turns 13 in a couple of months, and it was high time that he disabused of these notions. But how to do it in a way that will not leave him feeling let-down, and still have some fun with the magic of Christmas?

On the other hand, our 10 year old daughter, Amy, had pretty much figured out things for herself. She started asking some direct questions, and so we started to give her some direct answers. Our answers to her were gentle, and the kind that let her come to her own (correct) conclusions.

(Note: You can View more of our Christmas Photos Here.)

After our annual family Christmas Eve gathering, Amy told us that knowing what she now knows, made her feel more grown up. She also said that things make better sense now, and that she doesn't feel so "kiddish" any more. For her, feeling more grown-up was a good thing. She liked being in on the secrets, and being included with the adults. It made her feel more a part of the adult world (but please, not too much of the adult world too soon, I hope!).

After weeks of trying to figure out what to do, a flash of inspiration hit me. Why not incorporate the kids into the Santa Claus experience? The quickest way to help Bryan to understand the truth about Santa, was for him to becomeSanta. Only he didn't know about it yet. I had some last minute shopping to do on Saturday (Christmas Eve), and I took Bryan with me. Along the way, I dropped some subtle hints. We got some gifts for the grandparents, and a nice gift to Dawn Ann. Then we had to wade through the mob at the grocery store, and get our supplies for Christmas dinner. While we ate our lunch, we heard a report on the radio about the true origins of Rudolph, which stem from Montgomery Wards in 1939. That had to make an impression too.

At the grocery store, I made a point of dropping him a subtle hint that we needed to get some things to put in the Christmas stockings. (Santa has always filled the stockings at our house before). So we got some treats and stocking stuffers at the store.

I had been looking for these little "Smoosh Me" pillows. I looked all over for them, and finally found them at the grocery store, of all places! We decided to get one for Mama, Amy and Bryan. I let him pick out the colors himself. These would become presents from "Santa" as well.

We hid away the gifts we had purchased in the trunk of the car, for later retrieval. Later after we returned from our family Christmas Eve gathering at my mom and dad's house it was time for the new magic to begin! Amy went to bed right away (with a wink). Bryan and I told mama that she had to stay away from the living room (there was elf work to be done!).

We got the gifts out of the trunk of the car and brought them into the living room. As we were outside retrieving the gifts, I told Bryan that this year he would become one of Santa's helpers. He gave me a quizzical look, and the wheels of his mind started turning. I asked him, who do you think Santa is? The truth began to dawn on him. He asked, is it you? Then I gave him a wink and a nod. Bryan responded by saying, "I thought I saw his shadow once, and I heard noises on the roof too!" I said, sometimes our minds can play tricks on us when we want to believe in something badly enough. I explained that it is kind of like Harry Potter, that it is fun and wonderful and magical -- but it's still make believe.

When I made the Harry Potter reference, his mind suddenly clicked back to the previous conversation that he had with his mother, where she discussed the nature of Santa Claus with him two years before. Now everything was becoming clear to him. It also was dawning on him that we were letting him in on one of the secrets of life, and that we wanted him to participate with us, like a grown up!

A new smile slowly crossed his face -- his sneaky, mischievous smile. He was going to get to sneak around the house, and do it LEGALLY too! ( A talent which he comes by quite naturally, I might add!) Bryan was full of excitement at the prospects! We wrapped the presents that we needed to wrap for mama! Then we got all the goodies out and filled the stockings with care. Finally, we placed the "Santa" presents under the tree. After we were done, I got the camera and tripod out to take some photos of the tree, including some photos of the "Christmas elf" as well.

After Bryan went to bed, I went to get Amy. Mama was surprised that I would wake Amy up, but I told her that the two of us had a deal. I had arranged with her to put some extra little stocking-stuffer gifts into the Christmas Stockings. It was her little way to play Christmas elf too! We hid our little surprises in the stockins, and then she went back to bed, with a wink and a smile.

We had all agreed on a 7:30 am wake up time. Being Sunday, we had church at 10:00 am. However, no one got up at 7:30! At 8:00 we knew we had to get going so that we would have time enough to open presents before going to church. So we actually had to go wake up the kids for Christmas morning! That was a first!

Once they were awakened, it didn't take long for them to get all wound up and ready to go. There were surprises for everyone! As things worked out, there was no one person who knew what all the gifts were for everyone else. Not even mom and dad!

This year we found a different attitude with the kids, now that they were in the know, and were willing accomplices with St. Nick. Instead of focusing so much on what they were getting, they were actually looking to see the reactions of others to whom they were giving. They still got nice presents, and enjoyed them, but their Christmas morning experience was enhanced because now they were as much concerned about the happiness of others, as they were for themselves. A natural outgrowth of this has been an increased amount of appreciation for what mom and dad have done, and more gratitude for what they have received. Both of the kids have come to us individually and expressed their gratitude, several times today.

Next year it will be Amy's turn to play chief house elf. (We started calling Bryan "Dobby" after the house elf in Harry Potter - to which Bryan just smiles.) Amy's already looking forward to her turn next year. We'll probably let them take turns every other year from now on.

Hmm. . . I think we just started a new Christmas tradition at our house!


Stephen said...

We introduced our kids to the true story of St. Nikolas and the spirit of following in his footsteps, and that all the department store and Salvation Army Santas were agents of Santa. It made a good transition.

I'd have really preferred to start there, but ...

Kimberly said...

I have never taught my children to believe in Santa. He has always just been a fun game in our family that represents the spirit of giving. It has worked good with us and my children still find Christmas fun and magical. My husband had a bad experience with the whole Santa myth and decided that he didn't want to teach his children. We do tell them how it all started and we do play around with the idea but I also play the real and pretend game. Is Santa real? His Jesus real? Is Darth Vader real? Is Joseph Smith real etc and if they answer wrong I correct them. If they answer right which they usually do, I tell them they are right. Just my 2 cents.

s'mee said...

In our house we did go all out for Santa, cinderella, the tooth faery and other make believe stories and books, etc. It is a part of growing up.

Our feelings on this were that these fantacies come and go and are not a constant. We pray to Heavenly Father every day several times a day. Christ's "picture" is in almost every room of the house. We talk daily about the reality of the Saviour, and attend church every week to worship the Lord. When we read the scriptures we always made the point that these are not "stories" but "scripture facts" - this really happened. The difference in reality and fantacy are pretty clear.

When the kids asked about the reality of santa it went like this: "What do you think?" followed by a conversation that let them tell me he was fake. Then a responce of "If you believe Santa brings the toys then he brings them, if you don't then mom, dad or someone else has to. Pretending is fun, and now that you know- you can be a part of that Christmas magic. It's your turn to be a Santa to someone." Each child was given ample opportunities to serve and give without recognition. It was a great way to "save" santa and introduce selfless service as a life long habit.