Posted by: Hannah | 10/03/2012

Dear Santa

I love Terry Pratchett.

My sister introduced me to his books way back in high school, and I loved them right away. Dude is SMART. He can make you laugh, or cry, or think about things in a whole new way.

Although I love the Sam Vimes character and the increasingly complex arc that has developed over the course of several books, my favourite stand-alone book is hands-down “Hogfather“.

The Hogfather is Discworld’s version of Santa Claus; he comes on Hogswatchnight on his sleigh pulled by four giant wild boars, leaving presents for good children and bloody pig bones for the bad ones. The book works on a whole lot of levels, but at its heart is a story about the nature of belief.

“Humans need  fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.” – Terry Pratchett

It’s a good introductory book to the Discworld series. Many of the series’ recurring characters make an appearance. There are lots of children. There is humour, intrigue, some scary bits… I just can’t say enough about it.

I’m sharing it with Harry right now.

It’s been ages since he let me read aloud to him. For some reason this book turned the tide. Every night once the other kids are asleep, he curls up in the big bed with me, and we read. It’s been nice, especially given some of the attitude issues we’ve been dealing with since school started.

Tonight, as we read, he stopped me. “Mom,” he said, “is there really a Santa Claus?”

Now, I believed in Santa Claus until I was ten years old, for two reasons. One, every time I asked my mom vehemently insisted that Santa was real. And two, we were very poor when I was young, and even at that age I was sure that only Santa could make those presents appear because my parents damn sure didn’t have the money to buy them. When I did finally once and for all have to face the fact that Santa is your parents, I was crushed. And also embarrassed. I cringed thinking of every time I’d argued with someone at school about who filled the stockings.

While I love the Santa experience, and go to great lengths every year to make it a fun one for my kids, I always promised myself that if asked the question directly I would answer it truthfully.

So I did.

And my little man, the first thing he said was “oh, Mom. The Tooth Fairy, too? So, you’re the tooth fairy?” [gives me a huge hug] “But you HATE TEETH!”

He took is so well. I pretty much gave him a version of “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”. I explained how being Santa is an awesome fun part of my holidays every year, how it’s a great privilege to play such a role for my kids. How someday if he has children he will get to do the same thing.

“I just thought of something!” he said. “You and Daddy don’t get stockings or Santa presents because you’re Santa!” Another big hug. “I will stuff stockings for you both this year.”

We finished reading and he went off to bed with a smile.

And then I cried, because oh, this is a big step. He’s growing up, and I’m so proud of what a sweet and thoughtful child he is. I wouldn’t try to freeze time or turn back the clock.

But oh, tonight I feel a little old.

 

 

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Responses

  1. Oh my, this brings me back.
    Our son lasted until grade five and I still remember that conversation and that too grown up old feeling that I was left with.
    Thank you for the memory.

  2. I love how Ma explains it in On The Banks Of Plum Creek. She says that Santa is the love we have for giving to others, which manifests in each person. Whenever someone gives to others, that is Santa Claus. So when Owl asks this question, I will tell him yes, Santa does exist, but not in physical reality. Santa is a story we tell to children to little to understand the metaphor of Santa as Giving and Love.

    I think that A Christmas Carol, for example, shows how Santa, the Christmas spirit, came to Scrooge and how he learned to keep Christmas by going to others all year around.

    I never had the traumatic disillusionment that a lot of people told me about. I just realized it slowly over time and y parents reluctantly confirmed it. I’m glad Harry had such a good experience with it. And what a sweetie, to think about you and your stockings!! You have a special kid.

  3. I asked outright when I was eight, and was told the truth. I think I was more embarassed about the tooth fairy – I used to write long letters to leave with my tooth and hope that the fairy would help me solve whatever problem I was having with my parents… My brother worked it out for himself when he was about seven, but never said anything.

    • @Catherine: Grade five! Well done, you! I just think that sense of wonder and magic is so important… congratulations for keeping it going so long with your son.

      @IfByYes: We had a similar discussion (and we’ve read On The Banks of Plum Creek, although that little speech didn’t seem to cause any issues for either kid… interesting.) I told him that I still believe in Santa Claus, as the spirit of giving. I reminded him that I’m the one wigging out every year at the Santa Claus parade. So – he knows the stockings are stuffed and the cookies eaten by me. But he still finds the whole thing magical, and I’m so pleased and relieved at how well it turned out.

      @May: Cognitive dissonance is a hell of a thing. I figured out pretty early on that the Tooth Fairy wasn’t real (mostly because she hardly ever came on time at my house, ha)… and I had my doubts about the easter bunny… but Santa for some reason was so damn plausible! And I *wanted* it to be true.

  4. When you finish the book have you tried the two-part movie? It’s on Netflix (is that an American thing only?) and is pretty well done! No movie ever truly measures up to a book, but I would say that this one comes close.

    • I have seen the movie, our local library has a copy on DVD. I really liked it – Harry did, too. It was after watching the movie that he wanted to read the book. They’ve done “Going Postal” as well – it’s also very good.

  5. When my son was Harry’s age, we were reading the Redwall series together. He discovered Pratchett on his own a couple of years later. Fun.

    I never really did Santa with my kids. Sure, they heard about him — who can avoid him when the season rolls around? — but he was never a significant part of our own festivities. They knew they were NOT to try to convince schoolmates that Santa didn’t exist, and to my knowledge, they never did.

    I did do the tooth fairy, but like you my kids cottoned on very early, because do you know? The tooth fairy was JUST AS ABSENT-MINDED AS MUM. Hmmmm… Which was sort of a relief, when they did, because I could just hand them their damned loonie when they asked for it, instead of sneaking into their rooms at night. 😛

  6. Thank you!! I have always said that I was happy to maintain the illusion, but as soon as I was asked straight out I would tell the truth. Of course, the thought of how to do it in a gentle way escaped me 🙂

  7. Aw! So sweet. My kids stopped believing at a very young age (like, it’s been years) but we still put out stockings and cookies and milk and talk about Santa. They know it’s not real and it’s still fun. The Tooth Fairy…never happened in our house. Mark was freaked at the idea of a fairy coming into his room to take his teeth. So…my husband just gives the kids a handful of change when they lose a tooth. Huh.

  8. Xmas is not the big thing here that it is in Canada; a lot of really young kids will get a present or two from “Santa” on Xmas morning (usually in their beds, not under a Xmas tree) but that’s about the extent of it for most families (that, and the ancient Japanese tradition of eating “Christmas cake” and KFC on Xmas eve). We do stockings, milk and cookies and the whole bit, but most of my elder daughter’s friends do not, so it was no big surprise when she was seven years old and said she knew there wasn’t really a Santa Claus. Nothing too dramatic, really. However, I did let her know if she ever shared her new found wisdom with her younger sister, then “Santa”, real or not, definitely would not be stuffing her stocking on Xmas eve. Last Xmas she had a lot of fun joining Mommy and Daddy in making Xmas magical for her younger sister, and for me that was the big “oh my gawd my baby is growing up and i’m so old” moment.

    • Midgwim: Christmas cake and KFC? Really? It’s like everyone here having Chinese food for New Year’s Day lunch. 🙂 I’m looking forward to involving Harry in some of the Santa preparations… he loves being counted with the grown-ups, and I’m sure he’ll have fun even if he’s not waiting for Santa himself to arrive.

      Nan: BLACK PETER OMG WHY DID I GOOGLE THAT? *frantically scrubs brain* [ahem] I worry about your friend’s son, too. Sounds to me like that particular band-aid needs to be ripped off. Poor lamb – I’m guessing that overall his coping skills aren’t great.

  9. We never did Santa with our boys. They picked up on the concept from their peers and pop culture, but we didn’t attribute a single gift to Santa or did any of the rituals. It helped that we have friends from different ethnic backgrounds whose version of Santa Claus is radically different. Mind you, I wasn’t thrilled having to explain about Sinterklaas’ pal Black Peter.

    My friend’s son is 10 and swears Santa is real. He cries if anything to the contrary is even hinted at, and frets that Santa thinks he’s bad because so-and-so’s Christmas presents were so much better!.

    Honestly — I worry about the boy.

  10. Oh I have to go find Going Postal! They also did the Color of Magic. Their take on Rincewind was different than I imagined, but very well done.

  11. […] is just weird. Because a) Harry no longer believes in the Tooth Fairy and b) the Tooth Fairy only brings a dollar per tooth, whereas his weekly […]


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