For the past year, I've been dreading what I figured was the inevitable Santa truth talk. My daughter is 7, the same age I was when I realized my tooth fairy's handwriting looked suspiciously like my mother's, then figured that if a tooth-collecting sprite was a lie, then Santa probably was, too. My kid is curious and precocious like I was, so I've been waiting for the questions to start and the revelation to dawn on her that Santa and mommy have eerily similar taste in wrapping paper (I always buy a special roll just for his gifts, but I like my holiday decor to coordinate, OK?).
Is she playing me because she knows "Santa" brings the good gifts, and she wants those presents to keep on showing up on Christmas morning?
I've prepared myself for how I'll respond when she asks me if Santa really exists. First, I'll ask what inspired her to question St. Nick, just to make sure she's found some real evidence and isn't simply fishing. If Santa's cover has really been blown, then I'll gently and lovingly spill the beans in a way that will loop her into the magic instead of destroying it for her. I'll tell her that he lives in all of our hearts and should continue to live in hers. Finally, I'll bribe her with continued Santa gifts for as long as she doesn't ruin him for her 4-year-old brother.
My speech is ready and waiting, but strangely, not a single Santa question has come up, much as they haven't for many of my mom friends with kids who are 7, 8, and even 9 years old. Are our kids just more naive than we thought? Or, perhaps more likely, are they playing us because they know "Santa" brings the good gifts, and they want those presents to keep on showing up on Christmas morning?
Maybe I sound like a cynic, but I just don't see how a girl — my spirited girl — who seems determined to act and look as much like a teenager as possible, doesn't have questions about how a magical, round-bellied man who travels by reindeer delivers toys to every child in the world in a single night. She questions me when I change our brand of milk to one she claims tastes weird or when I move my favorite accessories so she can't find and borrow them without asking. She really hasn't noticed that the number of Amazon boxes in the basement don't come close to adding up to the number of gifts she gets from mom and dad?
This past weekend, we went to visit the big man in red himself, and I watched as my daughter froze up when he asked her what she wanted under the tree this year, so awed by his presence (and, of course, his presents). Was it an act? Maybe. But for now, I've decided I'm going to pretend she's still a believer and ignore the signs that she's pretending to believe. We can all use more magic in our lives, after all, and there's no better time to find it than at Christmas. And if she's playing me? Well, I'm a mom. I'm used to it by now.