So, Riya doesn’t believe in Santa any more. She’s 7.
Because I am so good at The Guilt, I have already spent a lot of time demonstrating to myself how this is my fault. I was a very credulous kid; I clung to Santa long after my classmates had abandoned him, and I honestly don’t remember now when it was that I knew I was just pretending to believe instead of actually believing. Much older than 7, for sure.
I expected my kids to be the same. I didn’t think I would have to work that hard to make it come alive for them. Some cookies on the table, gone in the morning. Presents under the tree. Done and done.
It wasn’t enough for Riya. Of course, it would have helped if I hadn’t slipped up so many times. I don’t know how many times, at inopportune moments, I said “I” or “we” instead of “Santa.” That, if you’re keeping track, is the part where it’s my fault.
But then again, Ben and Karina don’t seem to notice my mistakes. The cookies work for them. When I went the extra mile this year and arranged for them all to get emailed videos from Santa, they were glued to the computer screen. Riya winked. When I went the extra-extra mile and stomped through my living room in flour-coated boots to leave Santa prints, the twins saw them and immediately concluded that North Pole snow was the only explanation. Riya wondered why it hadn’t melted and got down on her hands and knees CSI-style to examine the trace evidence.
Clearly, if I was ever going to make this work for her, I had to start with a different premise. Rather than simply preventing her from finding out, I would have had to work to prove to her that Santa is “real.”
So, instead of beating myself up about it, I am going to be grateful that a friend posted a link to this lovely story about another girl who discovered the truth. I’m going to borrow her idea and write a letter to Riya about why Santa is important, even if there isn’t literally a guy at the North Pole with reindeer and elves. I’m going to be glad that she is compassionate enough to want to be a co-conspirator in creating Christmas magic for her younger brother and sister, and to thank her dad and me privately “because I know it’s from you guys.”
And if I cry a little bit, I won’t let her see, because she is just so very proud of how grown up she is, and I don’t want her to doubt that I am, too.