Who the hell thinks that when you have kids, you’ll be playing Santa Claus for ten years? At least?
Truthfully, that thought never, ever crossed my mind.
Those are the things you just do, without thought. It’s tradition.
The year was 2003…
My oldest son was 9 ½ years old, my middle son was 8 and my youngest was 3.
My husband and I were going out to dinner. The sitter was on her way and I was getting myself ready.
I was standing in our walk-in closet, looking for something to wear, when our youngest son walked in and pulled something out of its many cubby holes. I wasn’t paying attention to him until he turned to walk out and I realized what was in his hand. Easter had been 2 ½ months earlier, and I never got around to throwing away the wrappers and trash from the basket makings.
Biggest mistake ever.
As I got dressed, all of a sudden I heard my middle son say, “What is that?!”
No sooner did I register what he’d said that I became aware of the fact that my youngest son had handed my middle son the Easter basket wrappings. And Middle Son knew exactly what it was – as well as Youngest Son - which was a little crazy because he was only three.
Middle Son came racing into our bedroom and said something like, “Mom!!! What is this?! Where did this come from?!!
I was so stunned, I couldn’t answer him. He turned on his heel and stormed out of the room.
Since the sitter was on her way, I had to continue to get ready, even though I was totally flabbergasted.
What could I possibly say to rectify what had happened? He knew that the wrappers matched the items that were in their Easter baskets, and I could tell by the look on his face that he was devastated.
I went into their room and tried to say something, I didn’t know what, but something…
Middle son wouldn’t even look at me. I was distraught.
This wasn’t how I wanted them to find out there was no Santa Claus. I don’t know how I imagined it would happen but this was not it.
Truth is, I thought they’d believe until I was ready for them not to. I never gave it a thought. I truly didn’t.
The babysitter arrived, and I yelled to the boys that Mommy and Daddy were leaving.
No one answered. I had an overwhelming feeling of dread.
When I reached the safety of the car, I told my husband what happened. He, however, wasn’t as rattled as I was about Middle Son’s discovery. I couldn’t think of anything else for the rest of the night. I was a complete wreck.
I resolved not to say a word until one of the boys did, for no other reason that I didn’t know what to say or how to handle the situation.
They don’t call me the Queen of Avoidance for nothing.
Two days later, I was folding clothes in our bedroom when Middle Son came in and sat in our bed.
He looked at me with huge tear-filled eyes. I stopped what I was doing.
I could tell he’d already been crying as he started to speak.
“Mom,” he said quietly, “I just really wanted it to be real. I wanted Santa to be real.” With that, he started to cry again.
I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest.
Because I was too careless to throw my trash away from two months ago, all of my sons now knew the secret of Christmas – despite the fact that it was June, and Christmas was nowhere in sight.
I felt like the crappiest mother on Earth.
My mouth was dry. I prayed for the words to say to him.
I put my arms around him, took a deep breath and replied, “ Christmas will always be the same. Nothing will change. It will always be exactly as it has always been. I promise.”
Somehow, thankfully, those words sufficed.
Even though two of my boys are now adults and one is 14 years old, and life has proven rough for us at times, the spirit of Christmas in our family lives on.
Santa Claus continues to visit my home, even though my kids are on to the big secret.