Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Hard Talk: Santa Claus

"Mommy, tell me the truth."

At some point, the Monkey discovered an item in a shopping bag in the back of the car (some Harry Potter sorting thing).  This item later ended up in his Christmas stocking.  Of course, he's always thought that Santa stuffs the stockings.  And suddenly the math no longer made sense.  I don't know why it occurred to him earlier tonight...but his little brain wouldn't let go.  

He came to me with this information...and I could tell that he wanted to talk.  I let him drive the conversation as we stood there in the kitchen, doing my best not to react one way or the other.  He finally talked it out enough that he got to the root of it:  he believed in Santa, but seeing that toy opened the tiniest thread of doubt....and even though he wasn't sure he really wanted to know, he had to ask.  

"Mommy, tell me the truth...does Santa stuff the stockings?"

So I told him the truth...in the kindest way I knew how.  I told him that I believe Santa exists, but that I've never seen him.  And I told him that grown ups help on Christmas morning.   He initially took that to mean that Santa delivered the presents and the grown ups just arranged them...and I suppose I could have let the mythology go on a little bit longer, but his face was so serious (and he was so nervous about even asking that he was playing with my hair nonstop -- his touchpoint for comfort)...  So I set the record straight: it's the grown ups who take care of the Christmas gifts and the stockings. But that doesn't necessarily mean that Santa doesn't exist.

He thought it through for a moment...until he finally sorted out a way to mesh this new reality with what he believed:  "I think I understand.  The grown ups do the presents and the stockings...but Santa gives it magic.  He makes the grown ups magical so that they can make the morning special....and he makes the kids magical so that the presents will seem like the best presents ever."   I told him I thought that was maybe the best explanation of it I'd ever heard.  And I meant it.

His stomach was still in knots when he went to bed tonight...the sort of lingering sadness of an indescribable something lost.  I spent some time telling him stories about a few of my memorable Christmases....and about how Christmas is still alive and magical for me even though I know what he now knows.  We talked about giving....and I told him that seeing him surprised and excited on Christmas morning is one of my biggest joys.  He paused and looked at me funny....and asked if that's why my stocking is never stuffed.  I said yes...that I didn't need to buy presents for myself.

So he's decided that he's going to be in charge of stuffing my stocking this year...that he's looking forward to seeing the look of excitement on my face on Christmas morning.  And that maybe he'll buy me a really awesome pair of shoes that won't be delivered until after Christmas...but he can put the receipt in the stocking so that I'll see what's coming and be surprised and happy.  (You've got to give him credit....he knows me really well!)

Even with these thoughts and funny stories, he was still battling the sadness as he drifted off to sleep.  Though he couldn't quite put his finger on why his belly hurt, I know all too well:  he's beginning to molt.  The stuff of his childhood is slowly beginning to shed, making room for a new reality to grow around him.  The process is just beginning and will, I hope, take a long, long time to finish...but it's begun (which means I'd better get my A-game ready!).

I'm afraid that this is the first hard talk of many, many more to come...