Last Christmas was the last year the twins believed in Santa Claus. At 10 years old, they were probably among the last of their peer group to do so—or at least to admit to us they’d done so. The questions started coming about two years before that, after hearing some “there is no Santa!” rumors being spread by some of their savvier third-grade peers.
The first year, I denied such rumors, always with a shocked, “Why would they say that? Of course there’s a Santa Claus! Do you think I have time to wrap all those gifts in the stockings and under the tree?” They continued to believe, always making sure on Christmas Eve to leave a plate of cookies, a note and a glass of milk for Santa, along with an extra plate of carrots for the reindeer. Santa would always write back in scrawly handwriting, solidifying their belief.
But when they became skeptical of the other lies we parents perpetuate, namely the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny, I couldn’t lie. The tooth fairy idea is cute, and I didn’t mind them believing that each tooth she took from under their pillows in the night served as a building block for her giant castle in the sky. (Is it in the sky?) Plus, she stimulates the economy with her cash gifts. But the Easter bunny? That’s just downright creepy! I mean, come on, why do we let our children believe that a person-size rabbit walking on two legs creeps around their house at night hiding the eggs they painstakingly colored, leaving behind a basket of candy and junk?
When they kept believing in that nonsense, I would say to BK, “Come on, how could these two gifted, straight-A students really believe that a giant rabbit comes into our house at night? That’s just weird!”
Therefore, when they did finally become the least bit skeptical, I had no hesitation admitting that it was made up. I’m pretty sure they knew that, but didn’t want to admit it for fear of not finding money under their pillow with each lost tooth or not getting those Easter baskets full of candy and junk every Easter morning. (I did the same thing to my parents.)
But Santa was a different story. I didn’t want that belief to go away. When the questions really started coming during the past year, I would always borrow a line from The Polar Express: “Remember, the magic of Christmas lies in your heart.” That vague line saved me so many times, and hey, it wasn’t a lie. If the magic of Christmas lies in our hearts, then I still believe in Santa! (I must admit, last year at the mall, Santa walked past us on his way to break and my sister and I both teared up and stared at him like he were, well, Santa Claus!)
So last Christmas, sensing their ever-deepening skepticism and knowing this was probably the last year of Santa for them, I came up with the idea that we leave the scooters “Santa” was getting them up on the roof. We’d leave a note on the fireplace saying that their gifts were too large to fit down the chimney, so they had to be left on the roof.
BK loved the idea. (Yes, sometimes he likes my ideas.) So on Christmas Eve, after we returned home from midnight Mass and tucked the excited kiddies into bed, he gamely set up the ladder at 2 a.m. and climbed up, wrapped scooters in tow. But even BK couldn’t have predicted that for the first time in forever, it would rain on Christmas Eve and continue to pour all night long. Luckily, we had the forethought to put the scooters in plastic bags, so we figured they’d be OK.
The next morning, we did the traditional stocking opening. Sometimes they’d slip up with an excited, “Thank you!” to us when they opened one of their little gifts, whether it was packaged underwear or toothpaste. (Santa has always been practical when it comes to stockings in our house.) “Don’t thank us, it’s from Santa!” we’d say, not wanting to confuse Little Miss, who was busy tearing the paper from her stocking gifts into tiny shreds and sprinkling them like confetti all over the house.
When they found the note, they exchanged that “twin look” they give each other and then couldn’t contain their excitement: not for what was potentially on the roof, but just the idea of going up on the roof. They love to do that, and for obvious reasons, the opportunity doesn’t come up too often. So there we were, in the pouring rain, BK leading the girls up the slippery ladder. I’m pretty sure our neighbors never saw us because Child Protective Services never came to our door that day.
There in the pouring rain, 12 feet above the ground, they opened their gifts. Then they asked if they could scooter on the roof. The very slippery roof. Thankfully, BK had the sense to say no, and eventually they came down, although the ever-cautious Twin A always takes about an hour of coaxing before she’ll set foot on the ladder for the descent.
And yet, after all that, they later admitted that they knew the scooters were really from us.
Santa had left the building.
The good news is, he’s still here in the mind of Little Miss, and now we have two extra co-conspirators to help us perpetuate that belief for a few more years.
At least I think so. Yesterday, she asked how a baby gets in a mommy’s tummy. She’s only 4.
When did you break the news about Santa to your kids, or if you haven’t yet, when do you think is the right age to shatter their illusions? You can add your comments by clicking on the little caption bubble by the headline of each post.