“I’m going to imagine he’s real.”
This is what Reina said on the school run this morning. But let’s back up a bit. A few weeks back I had to tell Reina that no, Santa wasn’t real. No, nor is the easter bunny or the tooth fairy. “I am all those things,” I told her, “rolled into one big bundle of love for you.”
It was so hard to tell her and she was so obviously disappointed. Phemie has only just turned nine and only had this news confirmed for her earlier this year, at quite a mature eight. She was fine with it, but not so fine with Reina not being on the same page. It became impossible to keep it from Reina and once she asked us directly I decided we couldn’t lie. But it was hard.
Sure, we talked about Saint Nicholas and how Christmas was about the joy of giving, of slowing down and enjoying our families and expressing our love and gratitude. Unfortunately (in this scenario), we are not religious so I can’t imbue Christmas with any more meaning than that, although they do know the story and what it means for Christians. But that doesn’t help when you see your little girl’s heart breaking that something she so enjoyed believing in has been taken away from her.
I thought she would be sad and kind of angry. But she’s definitely not angry. It’s actually fascinating to me how Reina is taking this. When her classmates wrote letters to Santa she started one too, and finished it at home. At the top of her wish list was a ball gown. Yes, a ball gown. Ankle length, with puffy sleeves. And high heels. Oh Lordy. As she finished her letter to ‘Santa’, she turned to me and said, “Don’t forget mama. A ball gown, and high heels.” She’s hedging her bets.
The child is only six. She wants to believe. “Everyone in my class believes,” she told me, somewhat dismayed. I told her that’s fine, and appropriate, and asked her to please not tell them any different. Obviously that won’t happen, so I just have to hope her classmates will believe what their parents tell them over the voice of one lone classmate. I think they will, because I’m sure they want to believe just as much as Reina does.
Jumping forward to today, we’re back in the car on the school run this morning. Reina told us excitedly about the ‘elf on the shelf’ at after school care.
“Every day we leave it and it moves at night,” she said gleefully, eyes twinkling. “And the elf is watching our behaviour to let Santa know if we’re being good.” Nice one after school care, why didn’t we think of that years ago before it was too late?
“Oh really..the elf tells Santa?” Phemie said pointedly. “Wow. It almost sounds like it couldn’t be real..”
Reina gently protested a little more, smile still intact, before eventually conceding, “Phemie, I know he’s not real, but I’m going to imagine he is, because I want to.”
My eyes started to sting as I said “Good on you Reina! That is wonderful,” and then to Phemie, “she’s too young, she’s too young not to believe in magic…” Then I had to stop talking to wipe the tears falling down my face.
My children are growing up too fast, and there’s not a lot I can do about it except try to keep up, foresee the challenges ahead and prepare them for it.
Today I am so grateful for my six year old angel’s desire to stay six years old, just a little longer. I love her positivity. At three years old, barely able to string sentences together thanks to a then undiagnosed tongue tie and worsening speech delay, she paused on the step in the entry. We were putting on her shoes. Suddenly she looked at me, with so much light emanating from her enormous brown eyes and declared, “Mama, I love this world.” I had never heard her speak so clearly.
Thank you gorgeous girl, for helping your whole family to see so much beauty in our world, for choosing to imagine that magic might just be real, and for slowing down the gut wrenching pace of growing up. It might just give me enough time to source that ball gown.