She looked me squarely in the eye, her big blue eyes showing just a hint of skepticism pushing in on the edges of her hopefulness.
“And, why don’t grown-ups get any presents from him?”
I stopped her and said, “Libby, it sounds like you have some really good questions and that you would like some real answers.”
“Yes, I would.”
“Ok, let’s plan on having a conversation about all of this after school today.”
We loaded into the car and headed off to school. My day was busy and filled with phone calls, meetings, and deadlines. I had long forgotten the promised conversation in the midst of all the demands at work. I had just put down my briefcase and purse when she pushed up against me for a hug and said, “Can we have that conversation you promised this morning now?”
Oh yes, that conversation. The one where I knew it was time to tell her the whole story about Santa. It’s a conversation I’ve had three times before, and it has always ended with tearful eyes and heavy hearts at the news about Santa.
“Yes, Libby let’s go in my room and have that conversation.”
We sat on my bed and I repeated her questions and asked if she had any more questions, she had a couple in the same vein as the others.
I began to tell her about St. Nicholas, and that he was real. As I unpacked the truth her eyes never left mine, intently absorbing each word, her blonde head nodding as I spoke.
“So, he’s not real. Who is the man at the mall? Just someone pretending?”
“Yes, just someone pretending.”
I told her that it was important to tell her the truth now, because she was asking logical questions that came from places where she was thinking things through for herself. I told her that we wanted her to know we would always tell her the truth about important things she had been thinking about, and I asked her what she thought about Jesus since she can’t see Him but we’ve said He is real.
She sat for a minute, quietly thinking.
“I think I understand Mom. Jesus is real, and you’ve never made Him sound like Santa. Santa, and gifts at Christmas…well, that’s because God gave us the best gift, Jesus. We’ve talked about that at church too.”
“Yes, Libby. So, do you know that Katy and Steven and Allison all know the truth about Santa?”
“And, they never told you because it wasn’t their job to tell you; it was for me or Daddy to tell. So, it isn’t your job to tell Elly. Now you are one of the big kids and you get to hold this secret with them until Elly begins to ask the same questions and then we will tell her.”
“Yes, I like being one of the big kids. It will be fun to know the truth with them and let Elly still believe.”
“Yes, it will.”
“Mom thanks for all the fun presents you and Dad have given me. It seems like a lot and I never said thanks cause I thought they were from Santa.”
“You’re welcome Libby.”
As I looked into her eyes at the end of the talk there were no tears. In fact, there was a hint of a sparkle at the reality that she was now one of “the big kids” too.
Her gratitude and thoughtfulness for what has been in the past caught me by surprise. For her, being connected with her older siblings and sharing a secret with them was more than enough joy to overcome the disappointment that Santa is not really coming down the chimney this year.
Relationship and connection outweighed fantasy.
Another milestone reached in my parenting journey. My kids continue to surprise me, all the time.
That story was written on my blog a couple of years ago. On Friday the last of my children began asking the questions about Santa, while she was working on her Christmas list.
It was time to have a similar conversation with Elly, the last of my Santa conversations.
Because at my house, even though we tell the truth about Santa to our kids when they ask if he really is real the truth is we still believe.
We believe in Christmas magic. We believe in the impossible. We believe that Jesus is wild and that God is interested in the details of our lives. We believe in redemption. We believe in true love. We believe in happily ever after’s. We believe there is something special about snow on Christmas Eve. We believe.
Elly’s Famous Hot Chocolate Recipe
Two Special Christmas Mugs
2 Giant Scoops of your favorite Hot Chocolate Mix
1 Generous pouring of Nestle Peppermint Mocha Creamer
1 Big Handful of Mini Marshmallows
Swirl LOTS of Real Whipped Cream from the Can
Red and Green Sparkles
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12). Married for 26 years, she is mother to five kids. After nearly a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is. Founder of Seized by Hope Ministries, she writes here.