Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The truth shall set you free...

About a year ago was when I had the duty to talk to Josh about the big guy in red. Not because I wanted to... it was purely out of necessity.

Our annual tradition is to visit the Gaylord Texan Lone Star Christmas extravaganza mid-December usually a few days before my birthday. If there is any place around here that knows how to "do it up" for Christmas -- it's the Gaylord. There are lights everywhere. They have a gazillion trees and poinsettias and trains and strolling actors and Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus and photo ops and ice carvings and ice slides and live reindeer and, well, it's just amazing!

Frankly, it's a pain that my birthday is 5 days from Christmas but since it's MY birthday and I get to pick where we go for dinner -- we wind up there without fail. Their Riverwalk Cafe buffet is delicious! And now, because it's my call, it's just what we do! Thankfully, it's one of those things we call tradition and something we all look forward to.

So last year, after dinner as we were strolling around, I wanted to get the boys' picture with Santa. He really looked authentic. Drew was beside himself with anticipation. As the line would inch closer, he'd peek around the corner to see if Santa was within our line of sight. We stood in line and discussed Santa and what the boys were going to ask him for for Christmas. As the line grew even closer, I could tell that Drew was getting nervous. After all, it was THE head honcho, himself--in the flesh!

Soon enough, our turn came. Josh and Drew walked over to him and they exchanged a few words, hopped up on a knee and smiled for the camera. Flash and then you hear the sound of the cash register. We bought our photo and before we were even ten feet from the counter, Josh (loud and condescending in his tone) barked about how he knew that it wasn't the real one. "The beard was fake," he proclaimed. "I saw part of it peeling up by his chin."

We tried to reason it out with him and he bought it -- for a moment or two. Mostly it was so he'd just shut up so that Drew could enjoy and savor his moment with the jolly old elf. Josh was ruining the experience for everyone. Andy and I talked about it and both knew that it was time -- if anything, to help preserve the fantasy for Drew. Andy mentioned that I needed to be prepared with him realizing that there was also no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy either. I didn't even give that another thought.

To be honest, everywhere we went that year -- even before this event -- it was a constant struggle with Josh to just let him enjoy the moment rather than be ready to pounce on an iota of opportunity to disprove the validity of the elf in red.

I even remember watching a Christmas special from Little House on the Prairie where one kid ruined it for his little brother telling him that there was no Santa and even showed him where the presents were hidden in the barn at their house. When Josh saw this, he looked over at both Andy and I but we didn't look away from the screen. I think all these little things were adding up in his head.

Obviously, I love the kid but he was literally annoying the heck out of me with it all! Every book, every commercial, every movie... questions, doubt, questions, and more questions.

I was done with it all. I knew that this was THE year that the beans would be spilled. It wasn't fun pretend anymore. It was over.

I always figured that once Josh was either old enough or ready that I'd know when it was time to divulge the secret. All of the events of that holiday season last year led me to know that it was beyond time.

As a parent, I'm glad I had the chance to be the one to tell him so that he didn't find out from a friend and then be made fun of for still believing. So, as they say, "...and the truth shall set you free," by explaining the whole Santa Claus situation, Joshua was set free to actually enjoy the holiday rather than being on the lookout for Santa impostors. And, more importantly, it turned out to be a great moment between Josh and I.

So the whole Gaylord thing happened... the TV shows... the questions out of the blue... and one night I was in the kitchen prepping dinner and something came on about Santa -- perhaps a commercial or a Christmas movie -- SOMETHING that had to do with Santa was on the television. This --whatever it was that had to do with Santa -- started the questions again. They were fast and furious.

And, honestly, it got out of the feeling of a childhood fantasy to making me feel like I was, indeed, lying to my son. I finally just got tired of the barrage of doubt and invited him to the kitchen with me.

I said, "I need to tell you something very important that you're obviously old enough to know."

He looked very intrigued because he realized this was a big deal. It was almost as if he were being revealed a magician's secret. He leaned in as if I had to whisper it to him rather than speak even though there were only the two of us at the house at the time.

I began by asking him, "Do you know what folklore or legends are?" He looked puzzled but started throwing out a few guesses... "... you mean like Bigfoot?" I said, "Yeah, something like that."

I explained that Santa Claus - the modern icon - is nothing more than folklore or legend. He looked confused. I explained how years ago there was a benevolent gentleman who was gracious to those in need... and how he was called Saint Nicholas. We talked about his deeds and how the spirit of Christmas therein grew.... that by being benevolent to those in need was indeed keeping the spirit of Christmas alive. By giving to those in need was like sharing Christ's love. I explained to him that by knowing a secret like this, however, means that he is now responsible for sharing the burden of the "secret of Santa." By knowing this he has entered a new realm of responsibility. He is now responsible for keeping the spirit of Christmas live in Drew's heart. I gave him the task then of helping ME play "Santa" for his little brother.

So he leaned back against the counters to take all this in... it was somewhat disbelief that I was indeed telling him what his suspicions were but then it was as if he didn't want to believe what I was telling him... because he didn't want to surrender that fantasy. He would have a question and before he was even able to finish it, I answered it.

Finally I said, "Do you really think there is one person who is magic who can go to every believer's house in one night, eat all those cookies, drink all that milk, stuff all those stockings, visit homes with no chimneys, and have a toy bag that has enough for everyone.... all in a sleigh... pulled by flying reindeer?" He took that in for a moment and said, "Rudolph?" I said, "Josh, a flying reindeer?"

He said, "Yeah, that is kind of silly, huh?"

Then it hit him... "So, if you're Santa. What about the Easter Bunny?"

I raised my eyebrows and smiled a sheepish grin and tilted my head a little.

"... the Tooth Fairy?"

Again, I smiled, rolled my eyes a little a raised my hand and waved at him.

"WOW..." The kid who won't quit talking was literally speechless. He just took it all in at that moment...

And then, he did the most amazing thing. My sweet, wonderful son who was just able to be set free with the truth, walked around from the other side of the island, gave me a hug and thanked me for having been such a great Santa to him all these years.

We shared some more discussion and then put dinner in the oven. We sat down together and read some of a book I had purchased, "The Autobiography of Santa Claus." Good book, I'd recommend it.

I asked him several times after that if he was glad he knew the truth... and never once did he even hesitate with his answer, "Yes." Amazingly after that, he was really able to play it up for Drew... and so the torch has been passed.

I told him that while the spirit of Santa was alive in our house, he would still visit... That made him happy... enough that they're working on their letters to Santa this week!


Keli said...

awww wow! I hope it goes that smooth when it's time for my boys to learn the truth. They're so excited right now! You're doing such a great job with your boys! :)

chksngr said...

Awesome...This is a moment I dread. I pray I have as good an experience as you did!