Stories and thoughts about family and life

Christmas trust

on July 31, 2013

We took our boys to Disney World for Christmas a in 2011.  We have a timeshare we can exchange down there and turned it into quite the family vacation, driving down the coast and playing on the beach every time we stopped.  It was a wonderful trip.  When we take trips like that, I make it a point not to travel on credit.  I’ve gotten actually pretty good at budgeting and paying for the trip well in advance (as much as possible, anyway), and I pad the budget so hopefully we don’t have the tell the kids “no” too much.

In that particular year, it meant that we didn’t have much Christmas outside the trip (which is certainly plenty, don’t get me wrong), but Louis and I had several conversations about when it’s “right” to tell the kids about Santa.  Lucas had already pretty much figured it out–we had a couple of conversations where he all but told me he knew, and I know Brennan was getting suspicious, although neither of them dare commit completely for fear that no Santa means no gifts.

We have a few friends who say that to their kids– “If you don’t believe, you don’t receive.”  I can’t bear the thought of that.  I love gifting gifts and watching the recipients eyes light up when I’ve hit on the just the right thing.  It’s a wonderful thing for me.  Anyway, Louis and I had talked about how we could explain this to the kids and how we could reassure them that it didn’t mean Christmas was over, and that our beliefs about why we celebrate Christmas shine through regardless.

Louis was lucky enough to win an XBox 360 with Connect at a drawing his company was having, and we kept it hidden away from the kids and took it with us to Florida.  I packed it in a zippered freezer bag from Sam’s, knowing they weren’t likely to open anything that didn’t look like much fun.  One of them even carried it into the condo for me and never even offered to open it.   We had arrived on Christmas Eve in the condo, and we had plans (unbeknownst to the boys) to be at Epcot at opening time in the morning, which didn’t leave us a lot of time for leisurely Christmas Day lounging.  We prepared dinner, and sat the boys down and explained.

I told them that I knew they knew, as they had been figuring it out for a while, and that I wanted to explain to them that while Santa himself doesn’t exist, the spirit of Santa certainly does.  It’s that spirit that drives people to give gifts.   We spoke about the meaning of Christmas and celebrating Christ, and the various opinions/views on Christmas and how the legends came to be and how those legends embody exactly what I was explaining–that people use Christmas as an opportunity to shower those they love with extra special gifts.  Brennan was only 8, so I was trying to keep it in terms he could understand and appreciate.  He became very concerned, and it took a little reassurance that he would still, in fact, have Christmas every year, and there would gifts and that our greatest gift is to get to be together and do things as a family.  He calmed down, asked a few more questions, and that was it.  At least, until, we called my parents the next morning before leaving for the park to wish them a Merry Christmas.  The first words out of Brennan’s mouth to my dad was “Mom told me Santa isn’t real.”  Daddy, completely unprepared for this, just said “oh, really?  what else did she say?”  Brennan explained that we had a conversation about how Santa isn’t real but it’s okay because there’s still a Christmas and he’ll still get gifts.  Leave it to an 8 year told to cut to the chase.  My dad seemed relieved that he wasn’t going to have to go through this conversation at any real length.  Once that was over, it was no big deal.  We had a couple of follow-up conversations about Christmas, Christ, and how the traditions all found their places.  We also had a frank conversation with the boys about how they shouldn’t spoil the surprise for kids who don’t know.  I was really a little concerned about that last part.  Lucas seemed to get it, but Brennan has trouble keeping a secret under the best of circumstances.

As Christmas, 2012 rolled around, we had invited my husband’s sister and her family down to be with us and stay at our house through the holiday.  We had just relocated Louis’ parents, and I knew the holiday would be difficult for them.  We decided that having as many family members around as possible would ease them through it.  As we were preparing for the family’s arrival I prepared the boys for the likelihood that their cousins didn’t know about Santa the way they do.  I spent the first day of our guests’ visit worrying that Brennan might spill the beans, until he did something that amazed me.  He began speaking to Becca (his cousin nearly two years younger) about Christmas and Santa and asking her what she wanted and telling her that his mom had a connection with Santa (I used to tell them I had Santa’s e-mail, and I could communicate directly with him about their behavior even as he was preparing to deliver toys.  Everybody knows Santa carries an iPhone and checks his e-mail constantly, right?), and that he was sure I had let Santa know she was at my house so he would know where to leave her gifts.  I thought my heart would melt.  Not only had this child understood not to mess it up for her, but he was actually taking a very mature approach, and helping her not lose the dream of it all.  I knew then I didn’t have to worry.

We are planning another trip to Disney for Christmas of 2014.  We’re talking to a family who are friends of ours about possibly going with us, and in the discussion the mom told me her kids don’t know about Santa yet.  As we were driving to the office this morning, I took the opportunity to talk to the boys about how we may be traveling next year with friends over the holiday, and how those kids didn’t know about Santa.  Without missing a beat, Brennan said “so we won’t say a word about Santa not being real and we’ll play along when everybody gets gifts so they won’t figure it out.  We don’t want to mess that up for them if they still believe, because it’s special.”

I literally sat at the stop sign we had just reached, mouth agape, staring at him.  How can my now 10 year old have such moments of brilliance?!?  I am so proud of these two kids for having the (in my opinion) very adult understanding about something so sacred.  I’ve always tried to be open and honest with them, and explain things in a real sense when they have questions.  I’ve wondered from time to time if that was wise, or if they were really capable of understanding it all.  Moments like this morning make me realize that my children are capable of incredible learning, compassion, and trust, if I will allow them to be.

I couldn’t be more proud.


One response to “Christmas trust

  1. Sister Lee Ann, RSM says:

    And I couldn’t be more proud of your parenting skills and respect for your children! What a GIFT to our world!

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