And I am sort of relieved. Liv was teetering on disbelief last year, she asked a lot of pointed questions about the usual things, like how he can get to everyone, why some of her classmates get so many gifts that it takes all day for them to slog through them while she gets exactly three each year. And of course, who is the real Santa? Is it that guy at Sears? At Target?
She has always been a practical child. When she was three, I attempted to do the Easter Bunny thing and she was not open at all to it. Even I was forced to admit that it sounded scary when I told her that a giant rabbit was going around hiding baskets of candy and easter eggs in children's yards every year. She was properly terrified and took to refusing to set foot outside unless I checked the yard for giant rodents. I finally explained that it was just a story but she was not to ruin the story for other children who believed. Even at age three, she understood not to say anything when her cousins came over and exclaimed over what the Easter Bunny brought them. For us? Well, I filled a basket and hid the eggs and she knew it was me and we made a game of it.
For some reason, Santa has never scared her much. She was told that he came down the chimney or through the back door, whatever the parents picked. That he left gifts and yes, that he drank the milk and ate the cookies that she left. And Rudolph enjoyed his carrot. She seemed grudgingly fine with it all but when we would be out and about and there would be a Santa around, she avoided eye contact and wild horses couldn't have gotten her to sit on his lap. She seemed slightly freaked out on Christmas morning and not in the least bit excited the night before as she went to bed. She acted more like this was some stupid event that I had invited into our lives and was being a good sport about it. She did get three gifts each year and she appreciated that, but she was always relieved, I think, when the season was over. I had painted a picture to her of a kind, generous, saintly fella who DID NOT come into our house when we were sleeping, but that I let him in after she was asleep....
And it was ALWAYS just three toys. It was the same each year. I would buy her one big toy, a book and something small. Her stocking always held small things: hot wheels, a new ruler, a dollar, a whistle, a deck of cards, a bracelet. This year, she is getting a new skate board for her big toy, The Golden Compass book and a new chess set. She gets other gifts too from my sisters and our friends. She gets plenty. But, it has always been just three Santa gifts.
I think our worst time with make believe was the tooth fairy. She lost her first tooth in kindergarten. I hadn't even known she had a loose tooth, so hadn't prepared her or decided really what to do. Then, she came home with a little white tooth in a box from school one day. She told me that her teacher, a well meaning woman, told her that if she took the tooth home and put it under her pillow, that the tooth fairy would come in the middle of the night and take it and give her money or a small toy for it. She told me all of this, honestly sickened and appalled in the car on the way home:
Miss Crispin says that the tooth fairy is a little old woman with lots of wrinkles who has wings to fly and she sneaks into your room while you are sleeping and then reaches HER HAND under your pillow and takes the tooth and leaves a surprise. MAMA, I don't WANT a surprise! Please don't let her in! Why does this old woman collect children's teeth anyway? I mean, don't you think that is sort of creepy? WHY DOES SHE COLLECT CHILDREN'S TEETH????
Well, now. I didn't know. And she had a point. I mean, here I was her protector and was supposed to keep her safe. She was not allowed to even talk to strangers and there I am letting some strange old woman with a children's tooth fetish in our home in the middle of the night? So, I told her the truth. That it was simply a little story that parents made up to be fun for their children.
She looked at me with what I have since come to know as the are-you-freakin'-out-of-your-mind? look. She was incredulous. Who on earth would think this was a good idea, a good story to tell children? By the time we finished talking about it, she had me agreeing with her.
So, we came up with our own solution. Whenever she lost a tooth, we would celebrate by going to Starbucks and getting lattes and lemon pound cake. I did tell her that the truth about the tooth fairy must not be ruined for other children and while she honestly thought it would be a kindness to tell them the truth, she agreed not to spill the beans. She DID privately tell Miss Crispin the next day about our new arrangement. Miss Crispin's eyebrow shot up, but she smiled gamely. To this day, I am sure that she sees me as that crazy parent who lets her child drink coffee. Well, I do. Liv has either chai tea or coffee with cream and sugar with her breakfast every morning. Shoot me. She isn't allowed to drink sodas, so give me brownie points for some damn thing, will ya?
But, Christmas and Santa were never challenged until this year. Yesterday, on the way home from school, I asked Liv if she wanted to send a letter to Santa this year. She looked at me kindly. It was clear that she had something difficult to tell me and she was solicitous.
L: I need to tell you something and I hope that you will understand and that your feelings won't be hurt.
M: Um, okay. Shoot. Go ahead. Spill it, lovebug.
L: I don't think that Santa is a real person anymore. I think it is one of those made up fairy tales like the easter bunny and the tooth fairy.
M: Well, yes. You are right. And no, my feelings aren't hurt. I'm kind of glad to be over the hoopla, to be honest.
It was that simple. Liv wondered if her Santa gifts would stop now and we discussed it. I said that I was fine with doing what we always do. Christmas Eve, she gets to open her gifts from other family members and friends and then on Christmas morning, instead of Santa gifts, she can open her gifts from Bing and me. We both agreed that this was acceptable.
I am surprised at how good I feel about this. I thought that when she stopped believing, it would be a sad day for me. But, the truth is that she figured this whole Santa thing out a long time ago, I suspect and has been humoring me for years, not wanting to hurt my feelings, etc. She is practical, as I said, but she is also very kind.
And, if any of you are hungry for the perfect Christmas story, you MUST read Six To Eight Black Men by David Sedaris. I actually listened to this story read by the author on tape in my car. Big mistake. I literally laughed so hard that I started crying. I was hooting like a totally insane old woman who had no business driving. I have a very clear memory of being stopped at a red light and glancing over to see another driver looking at me in concern as I put my head on the steering wheel laughing. It is hilarious.
I can't wait until Liv is old enough for me to read her THAT story.....