This is sort of a spoiler warning for parents – please don’t let your young children read this
Like countless parents throughout history I’ve struggled with the day I have to tell my child the truth about Santa Clause.
From their first Christmas we have a growing sense of dread at this first, little loss of innocence. I think that’s why we delay it as long as possible – most parents to the point of letting their children find out on their own. That’s not what I wanted for my son, so this year I was determined to have a plan for that fateful day.
I usually think of such worries in the shower so it was no surprise that with Christmas only a couple of weeks away I found myself again knocking this one around.
The nature of the Santa dilemma is the aforementioned loss of innocence but there’s also the element of trust between a parent and their child. With the end of this illusion comes an inherent loss of trust that seems unavoidable.
But there’s something else that’s always bothered me and that is the loss of magic, or more precisely the belief in magic. You see I still believe there’s magic in the world. My definition has changed over the years but I believe magic is real.
It’s that belief in magic that led me to a simple and beautiful solution to this dilemma.
I no longer believe in magic carpets or genie lamps nor do I believe in séances or spells. What I do believe in is the magic of nature that so many of us have lost touch with. If you don’t believe me find a single day to go to a state park. When you get there, turn everything off – the car, the radio, your phone, everything – and just stand or walk or sit and look and listen and breathe and feel. This is real magic. Magic that can transform you, change you. For some it can fix you and heal you. If you’re able to stay overnight, turn off all the lights and look at the sky. Just look and let your mind wander. Above all don’t be afraid of your own thoughts.
But it’s not only in nature that we can find magic – we can also find it in the human heart. Every time a person chooses forgiveness over hate, even though every fiber of their being wants to hold the hurt close and never, ever let it go – and they still choose forgiveness. That is true magic.
When the time comes to talk to him I can now explain that Santa really does exist and I can explain why.
I’ll start by telling him that people are selfish. It’s wired into us from birth. A child depends on a grown-up because they have to. To a child there is nothing in the world more important than themselves.
When we’re older this becomes more and more re-enforced by the endless parade of products and services all out to get our attention. We love to get things and have things given to us.
Then one day something happens to us and it changes. For some it’s the day they first fall in love, for others it’s the day they first look at their newborn child. Something inside changes and we find that we care about someone else more than ourselves.
Against a lifetime of being self-centered and selfish we find that we can only think about making that other person as happy as they can possibly be. It’s a transformation. It’s magic.
I’ll explain to him that when he’s older and this miracle happens to him – on that day – he will become Santa.
Just as his mom and I did the day we fell in love and the day he was born.