I had a disturbing and utterly frightening dream last night; the kind of dream that sends chills down a parent’s spine this time of the year. I dreamed that it was Christmas morning and that we’d all—everyone in my family—completely forgotten to fill the Christmas stockings, or—horror of all horrors!—leave cookies and milk out for Santa. Of course, I have to add here that even the horror of this dream did not compare to the reality of having actually left behind, two states away, some of T.'s critical Santa presents last year—but that's another story.
In my dream last night, I felt a knot of dread in my stomach when I saw the empty stockings, hanging listlessly over the hearth. I felt another, so real pang of horror when I remembered (after T. pointed it out incredulously in my dream) that we had forgotten the cookies, and the children had woken up to find no traces of Santa Claus. Of course, when I woke up and thought about the dream, I had that blissful moment of relief you get when you realize it was only a dream. It was okay; we hadn’t flubbed Christmas morning after all. Christmas is still four days away and there’s plenty of time to make sure we get it right.
I think part of the reason I had this disturbing dream was due to the fact that I always wrestle annually with the dilemma of What to Do with Santa Claus. While I love the story of Santa, and firmly believe in the magic of Christmas myself, in the importance of preserving Santa as an iconic figure, and, yes, in Santa a little, too, a small part of me worries about what my children will think when the day comes and they no longer believe. L., at eight, is still a staunch believer; however, my literal-minded son is obviously wrestling with some of the more tricky details, like this one:
“Mama, what I don’t understand about Santa is the fact that the North Pole is predominantly covered in water most of the year. Where does he live? How does he survive?” (He would be really disturbed to read the latest on global warming and its effects on the North Pole.)
Of course a question like this also conflicts with L.’s firm belief that Santa will not only produce a glass cockpit for him this year, but also somehow magically shrink it to a size small enough to fit down Grandma and Dad-dad’s chimney.
So I’ve been thinking, as I always do in the days leading up to Christmas, about how I will talk about Santa with my kids when the time comes for the really tough questions. And of course empty stockings on Christmas morning and no cookie crumbs left out from the night before would all make a few explanations to the kids very necessary. Clearly my unconscious mind is wrestling with all this in my sleep, worried about the details we parents worry about this time of the year, and panicked lest one of us mess up and shatter the sacred Santa magic for my children—those children who are growing up oh-so-quickly. After all, kids only believe truly in Santa for a small handful of years; in those years wonderful things are possible, magic exists, and even the most unimaginable, inexplicable possibilities become real to our children. Every year I hold my breath, afraid that this year's Christmas will be the last Santa-filled one for L. I so desperately don't want it to be so; yet I know it's there, around the corner, waiting. Then the page will turn, and something will change, and never quite be the same again.
Do you worry about all this, too (or is it just me)? How do you handle you-know-who with your own children?