Do your children still believe in Santa? I have good reason to think that this may be the last Christmas where we have a believer in our house, and I’m not sure how I really feel about that.
My eldest didn’t buy into the Santa thing for very long. Her brain is just far too logical. When she was 3 years old – an age where children are usually enjoying the Santa concept, not critically evaluating it – she did just that. She had been to see Santa, left out mince pie for Santa, squealed in delight at the presents Santa left her… until a small yet crucial error on my part set those cogs in her brain turning.
She asked how Santa got into our house. I told her he came down the chimney, and through the fireplace. This was my error. She could see our fire wasn’t an open one. “But there’s no gap in our fire Mummy, he couldn’t get through.” I told her he was magic, and so he could, and I thought she bought it. Until she spent the rest of the day throwing glances at the fire, and shaking her head in disbelief.
The next year, when Santa season came back round again, and she went to visit him in the grotto, it became clear that her skepticism had lived on. Santa was for babies, he wasn’t real, but she would play along to get the presents. Her baby sister still believed after all.
To be honest, I was so impressed at her critical thinking skills I didn’t even try to convince her, and adopted a “neither confirm nor deny” approach when Santa came up. Somewhere in me thought she may start to not trust her own judgement if I pushed it too much, and started to question if Santa was just a socially acceptable way of gaslighting the under 10’s.
My second child couldn’t be more opposite. Everything is magical to her. She is pure unicorns and rainbows, and it’s just beautiful. The joy and excitement she got from Christmas time and Santa was contagious. It brought magic into our home that we happily basked in, and played along with. We all encouraged it, with Santa visits, reindeer food, letters to the North Pole and our solemn Christmas Eve tradition of leaving out a carrot and a mince pie. I worried about gaslighting in no way at all.
For the last couple of Christmases however, she has voiced her doubts. Interestingly enough, it’s my eldest child who has continued to encourage her to believe, “Of course he’s real” and “You might not get any presents if you don’t believe”. I’ve maintained my “neither confirm nor deny” approach and asked her what she thinks and why. She always came to the conclusion that he was in fact real.
I’m not sure that this is going to last for much longer. She is eight going on nine, and I can see she’s slowly piecing the reality together, while desperately holding on to that glimmer of hope that it all really is as magical as she wants it to be. Her heart is just about winning out over her head, but the sparkle is just that tiny bit dimmer this year.
Were very nearly at a big milestone in our family, because it means that even our little unicorns and rainbows girl is growing up, and this year, it has to be extra special because next Christmas, it’s likely that there’ll be just a little less magic in our house.
Christmas will still always be a special time, and luckily we still have a few glorious years of childhood left before the teenage years hit, whether Santa is real or not. And I will very much be making the most of it.
To the parents of younger children: If you’re worried you’re going a bit OTT this Christmas, don’t be. Go OTT. Bake endless christmas goodies with your children. Take them to see Santa, and the Christmas lights. Sing carols. Make your living room look like a grotto. Start buying mince pies on Dec 1st. Don’t miss their nativity plays. Get covered in glitter making Christmas crafts. Do it all. Because one day, all of these things will be just memories. Childhood may be short, but happy memories last a lifetime.