Declan is nine. He will be 10 in September, and I am certain he has been on this earth at least a few times before. I just gets things without me having to tell him, and I am not the only one who notices.
So, I was surprised that Santa was still big last Christmas. There had been questions since around age six, and I started turning them around – like we were in a court of law and I was avoiding a death sentence.
“Is Santa real?”
“Um, what do you think?”
He would always be steadfast in his belief. Yes. Totally. Santa is real. Well, okay, then. Santa stays, he gets cookies – and Guinness. Because Santa loves Guinness, right? He always has in our house, at least.
I felt uncomfortable with the deception, because we are so straight-forward with Declan about everything. On the other hand, who am I to deprive him of the magic of Santa?
So I let it slide. I dodged his questions. I never directly lied to him over the past few years, but I also never really answered with the truth either.
Then came Easter 2012.
Bryan had purchased a bunch of candy, and toys, and office supplies for the holiday. Bryan loves toys and Declan loves office supplies. They were hidden in his car, ready to spring out with the Easter Bunny on Sunday morning.
The only problem was… well, Easter Bunny’s “helper” went to a big party the night before, had one too many drinks and took a cab home, so early Sunday morning the Easter Bunny’s “wife” had nothing to put out.
I could see Declan prancing around the kitchen from our bed, peeking in to see if we are awake, following all those rules about not going out and looking at his loot without us.
Before you are too hard on Bryan, I was actually relieved.
Here we go.
Let’s end this pretense.
I grabbed Declan by the hand and led him out to the couch and we plopped down together.
“Declan, tell me what you think about the Easter Bunny.”
After a long pause, and a sly smile, he answered, “I think he is you guys.”
The huge rush of relief that washed over me was better than if we actually had the candy there for him, rather than melting in the hot sun of a parking lot several miles away.
I smiled, he smiled, we exchanged the discerning looks of people who were knowledgeable about the world.
“Then, you know that Santa Claus is not real either, right?”
The look I got. THE LOOK. He gave me a look of such desperate magnitude… you would think I just shot our dog. In front of him. And laughed.
His eyes filled with tears, and a very wobbly voice whispered, “What do you mean, Santa is not real?”
He’s kidding, right? He has GOT to be kidding me.
I did NOT just kill Santa.
If there was any time in my entire life that I could use one of those ridiculous reverse 30-seconds of time contraptions they use in the movies, THIS WOULD BE IT.
“Didn’t you ever wonder why Santa likes Guinness?”
Those little eyes widened, and then his brow scrunched, then his eyes widened again – like everything came tumbling into place, one by one.
And he started crying in earnest.
“Do you wish I hadn’t told you?”
There was a mumbled yes through all the crying and burying of his head in the couch.
I let out a deep sigh and dug in. We talked about a lot of things for almost an hour. About faith, and magic, and even Jesus, although we are agnostic. I told him that he has the choice to learn about the world and decide what he wants to believe in. I explained that his dad and I have great faith even though we are not religious. That he can now continue the tradition of telling Santa’s story for the younger children in our lives, and to help protect that magic for them. That magic is very important, and many things in this world cannot be explained.
By this time, Bryan had joined us and lent a second voice to what I was telling Declan.
Our darling, sensitive boy finally turned to my magical husband and said, “Daddy – do you believe in Santa Claus?”
“Yes, Dex. I absolutely do.”
Now the big question is this: What do I do the next time he loses a tooth?