If You Have Little Kids, Send Them out of the Room

Yesterday was a special day at school. There is an annual community Christmas tree trimming where the kids bring in ornaments to put on a tree which will go in the main hall outside the school office. If the older kids had younger siblings, they accompanied them and helped them hang their ornament together, which is kind of cute. The student band played carols and we sang (some silly middle schoolers shouted). And of course a certain saint whose feast happened to be yesterday dropped by (I suspect it was an eighth grade teacher who wasn't sitting with his class) and all the kids went crazy.

On the way to an appointment after school, I was listening to the afternoon hosts on a New Jersey talk radio station that I can pick up in my car. The discussion was about their disagreement with a blogger who said that she did not want to tell her kids about Santa Claus because it was lying. One of the hosts was vehement that one should never stop believing in Santa, and there was a hilarious exchange between him and a 12-year-old caller who seemed to be trying to tell him it was O.K. not to believe anymore after a certain age (which of course made the host upset and convinced the kid was being mistreated by his parents!).

I don't want to get into that whole lying debate.

But it did get me thinking about the year I "found out."

Younger Sister and I had made a new friend in the neighborhood, and one summer day we were playing over at her house. I forget what we were up to, but somehow we wound up rummaging around in her parents' bedroom closet. It turned out that her mom was one of those early shoppers for Christmas, so we came across some things that our friend identified as Christmas gifts.

Then she stated, off-handedly, "Yeah, she always hides the presents in here. That's how I found out there's no Santa Claus."

Cue the sound of glass shattering in my mind. "Oh."

She sounded so mature, in her casual matter-of-fact delivery of what was really a shocking blow to the innocent childlike air surrounding me, and made me feel like not only a total dummy but also a bit babyish.

Did I mention she was in third grade and I was in fifth (albeit I'm on the young end of the grade)?

I went home with my world completely changed.

I didn't realize until today that that meant Younger Sister was in first grade--so did she maintain the illusion another year or whatever, just so she'd get presents? (I could see that; she's very pragmatic. This is the kid who finally came clean almost two decades later about how she got a concussion at age four because she didn't want Mom to get angry upon learning her baby girl fell while attempting to break into the medicine cabinet!) Heck, maybe she knew even before that incident at our friend's house. I'll have to ask her if she remembers.

At what age is it supposed to change? I admit that I feel a bit embarrassed that I was a late "disbeliever." Were my parents supposed to break it to me, and they just couldn't do it? My older brother or the kids in the schoolyard? I wonder if there's any right answer to these questions.

In any event, even nowadays as a thirtysomething, there are moments I wish I could be adamant like the radio show host and say, "You never stop believing."

This kind of cheered me up, though.


Rob said…
I think it's a right of passage at whatever age or by whatever means you find out. Parents that carry forward the tradition should not ever be the ones to reveal unless the kid is headed off to college or something. Parents who choose not to carry on that tradition with their kids should be mum around other kids.
Rob said…
He meant rite of passage. :)
ccr in MA said…
I honestly don't remember when I learned this. Off to e-mail my mother and ask her if I repressed a big story!
nightfly said…
In Glee's recent Christmas episode (which was cleverly done, I recommend it), one of the big wheels in the plot was Artie's realization that Brittany, the highly-ditzy blonde cheerleader, STILL believes in Santa. (She's a HS junior, I think.) He convinces everyone to go along with it for her sake, even all sitting on a mall Santa's lap to tell him what they want for Christmas.

Things take quite the complication, however, when Brittany wants only one thing from Santa this year: that Artie will be able to walk.

Really sweetly-done episode. As is typical of Glee, even when you know where they're going, it's fun to watch them get there.
Dave E. said…
I don't remember how old I was either. Maybe six or seven? I also don't remember it being a big traumatic thing. I probably heard about it from one of my two older sisters.
Anonymous said…
Are you trying to tell me something about Santa? LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU LA LA OH SAY CAN YOU SEE...
Kate P said…
Rob--yeah, that's a good point that adults really shouldn't be the ones to reveal "who Santa is" nor should they mess with other people's kids! (The "unless the kid is headed off to college or something" exception notwithstanding.)

CCR--I'm guessing it didn't bother you that much! You must be one of those rare well-adjusted kids or something.

'Fly--that was a bit out there for me, but like you said it brought out a lot of nice/fun things in the other characters.

Dave--see, that's what I'm talking about. That's the usual way IMO.

ProfMondo--I see we should have sent YOU out of the room before starting this conversation! :)

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