What do Sex and Santa have in common?
(Oh the fun we could have with that question, but this is a family blog people, so I will keep my responses clean and appropriate and to the point of this post.)
1. My parents never told me about sex or Santa. I think I learned about sex in the Jr. High library. Imagine my surprise to find out what my friends were actually doing at the local movie theater. And I used common sense and logic and connected the dots early about Santa. I mean how is one man supposed to make it around the earth in one night? Why were our parents shopping all the time and we hardly got any presents from them, and hello! reindeer don’t fly… (I was an overthinker even as a child)
2. They are both special, and yet as parents we have no idea how to breach these topics with our kids. Moms and dads dread the day when they have to explain either one to their children. We don’t know what to say.
3. There is an optimal time for our kids to know about both of them. Too young and you’ve damaged dreams and smashed innocence (using hyperbole here) and too old and you’ve missed key teaching moments.
4. And for me, I wanted to be on the offense with both of these topics with my children, not the defense. I didn’t want them to hear about Sex or Santa from friends first before they heard it from me. I wanted to be my children’s honest source for important information.
So we talked about Sex with Elle last year (check out this post) and I have been contemplating about telling Elle about Santa for some time. We almost did it last year, but held out. This year she found out the truth about our elf and she was asking so many questions. I talked to my husband, my sister, and some friends to gather ideas and opinions. I knew it was time.
But even though I knew it was time, I wasn’t quite prepared to tell the truth to my daughter. I was a little sad that her childhood innocence was over and a little nervous how she would take the news. And I didn’t know what to say or how to handle it. Would I tell her before Christmas or right after? Would we go on a drive or talk in bed? Would I coat it over or lay it on the line? Would I make it serious or laugh it off? All of these thoughts were going through my mind as I was preparing.
But as we lay in bed Tuesday night for our nightly snuggles, Elle point blank asked me, “Is Santa real?” And she asked me more than once.
I could not deny or put off her question. The moment I was preparing for had arrived. I was glad I had put some pre-thought into this potential conversation.
Our dialogue went something like this:
Mom: Are you sure you want to know the truth to your question? Because some answers we really don’t want to know. Like when I ask dad if I look fat in my outfit, I really don’t want him to tell me the truth. Are you sure you are ready?
(We laughed and the ice was broken.)
Elle: Yes, I really want to know. I have been thinking about it all Christmas season.
(That was my cue that it was time for her to know. It wasn’t just a whim she had that day. I couldn’t deny her when she was asking with such sincerity and forethought. And I wanted her to know that I would answer her questions when she came to me with them.)
Mom: What have your friends said? (I was assessing how much damage control I needed to do.)
Elle: Nothing. We don’t talk about it.
(Phew. I wasn’t too late.)
Mom: Well, Santa is real. But not in the way that you think. There is not one man at the North Pole that gives presents to everyone, but rather Santa is more like a symbol. A symbol of giving, love, kindness, service, etc. Santa represents these good parts of Christmas.
So mom and dad, aunts and uncles, grandma and grandpa, and even siblings are Santa’s helpers. We give presents anonymously under the name of Santa so we don’t get the credit. The joy is in the giving, not in the recognition.
Elle: So how did I get my sewing machine?
(Chad had joined the conversation by this point. We probably should have hashed out our game plan before he sat down. He was way more direct than me.)
Dad: Mom went to Wal-Mart in the middle of the night and bought it.
Elle: Mom did???? (She was so surprised!)
Elle: Well, who gave me my flip camera then? (The Santa truth still wasn’t sinking in.)
Dad: I ordered it off the internet.
Chad held Elle’s hand at this point. She snuggled in closer to me. I thought for a second she might be crying, but it turns out she was laughing.
Elle: I can’t believe you gave me those things.
Mom: You are right. Dad and I would never get you these things. But there is a magic at Christmas time and a desire to give so the gifts that Santa brings are different than the ones mom and dad would give you. We love to see your faces light up on Christmas morning.
And now that you know about the secret of Santa, you are Santa’s helper too. You can be apart of the giving. You can go shopping with me and you can help us lay out stuff for Crew, Croft and Locke. And you can give to others too. You can find someone that needs that love, giving and kindness that Santa represents and do something special for him or her.
Now it is important that you must not tell anyone else. You are a keeper of the secret. So don’t say anything to your brothers or sister or cousins. It is the parents’ job to tell their kids.
Chad: (In a very light, humorous tone and as a way to wrap up the conversation…) Now you know about sex and Santa.
Mom: Yeah, Elle, you are lucky. My mom never told me about sex or Santa. So I wanted to make sure that you knew about both from me.
Good night. Love you.
Elle: Love you too, mom.
Overall the conversation went well and there was a bit more discussed back and forth. But I wanted to make sure Elle had time to process the information and I wanted to give her a chance to ask more questions as the news set in. Just like the sex talk, one discussion was not going to be enough. So I came back the next night with a letter I had written.
I saw this letter and this letter on Pinterest the day after our initial conversation. I put the two together and reworked my own letter here. She read my letter with a smile on her face. After she was finished, she said, “This makes more sense. Now I know why homeless people didn’t get presents from Santa. It costs money and you need to have a parent or something.” It It was like so many of her questions had finally been resolved.
Then we talked about different magical stories at Christmas that illustrated how Christmas is different than just mom and dad giving gifts — how Santa is real. Like the time when my sister got a guinea pig for Christmas. We knew Santa was real because my parents would never let us have a pet. Or when my mom got a beautiful doll for Christmas a year that her family was really poor. Her dad had won a drawing at a local toy store on Christmas Eve so he was able to give toys to his kids that year after all. There is still magic and goodness and giving even if there is not one man at the North Pole doing all the work.
We also discussed who she could help this Christmas. After much thought, she picked a little girl in her grade who has been feeling lonely and left out. We will start making plans for her.
As I kissed Elle goodnight, she asked, “Wait, is the tooth fairy real?”