Last Christmas was the first year everybody knew. You know, Mom moves Buddy the Elf every night. We don’t open packages out in the open for the entire month of December because something Santa Claus “made” might be in there. The magic was gone… or was it?
It all started with the Tooth Fairy. That silly sprite forgot to take my daughter’s tooth in the night. Yes, again. At breakfast, Neely announced that she knew it was me. There is no Tooth Fairy. Who would want to collect teeth and pay kids for them anyway? That’s just gross.
Within 24 hours, my cover was blown. She decided the Easter Bunny didn’t make much sense, either. How could a rabbit carry all those eggs and candy? Santa Claus was the final holdout. She really, really, REALLY didn’t want to give him up. But as she always does when she wants to ask me something uncomfortable…she cornered me while I was cooking dinner.
Mom, is Santa Claus real?
I tried my default answer for as long as I could…
What do you think?
For whatever reason, answering the big question with another question had held my oldest off for years. The girl wasn’t biting.
Do you really want to know the answer to this question?
It’s a pivotal moment in childhood, giving up Santa Claus. I wanted her to be sure. I remember the day I learned the truth well. My parents were worried that I’d be upset, but instead, I was very excited! I saved up my allowance money and asked them to take me to the Dollar Store, so I could buy something to sneak into every single person in my family’s stocking that year. This was no small feat with a large extended family who all made a yearly trek to my grandparents’ house to spend the night on Christmas Eve.
Ultimately, my Neely Bug decided she wanted her answer. I hoped and prayed she’d react as I did, that she’d be happy to be in on the big secret and get to help create Christmas magic. She didn’t. She reacted in a way that I could never have imagined. We sat, and we talked. I bawled. This felt like a big parenting turning point. My youngest child, my baby girl, would no longer believe in magic. I felt a little bit of the light draining out of Christmas.
The months leading up to the Christmas season came and went, and soon, it was Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving, our Elf on the Shelf, Buddy, arrived from the North Pole. I wondered if it would even be necessary to play the game, to move him, or if he could—wait for it—sit on the shelf.
That year, my daughter gave me a gift. She came downstairs for breakfast and was as excited as she ever had been to see Buddy. She informed me that she still believed in Santa Claus and the North Pole and elves and magical flying reindeer. We know the truth, she and I, but we also both value our holiday traditions. And so, I will continue to move the Elf, make excuses for him when I forget, and hide gifts in the unlikeliest of places until Christmas morning comes around.
The jig may be up, but there’s still magic in this house.