Below is a blog post I wrote before Christmas in 2009, when my daughter was just 8-years old. It’s been hanging out on a now-defunct blog I started almost six years ago. A friend of mine asked me about this post yesterday, as it’s one of her favorites, and I decided to share it here. Back then, I was a single mother working full-time and going to school full-time. We lived paycheck to paycheck so money was hard to come by. Christmas was the only time I could justify spending money on unnecessary things. This time of year was always very stressful.
That Christmas when she was 8 was the last Christmas she believed in Santa wholeheartedly. These days Elle is 12 going on 25 and slow to believe in anything unless you can prove it to her. That’s part of growing up, though. I knew the day was coming (parents: it’s inevitable), but at the time I wanted to help her to believe in other things, like the kindness of friends and strangers alike, or even the good fortunes that intersect with unforeseen circumstances. I want her to believe in a lot of things, for a lot of reasons, but one thing I don’t want her to believe in is coincidence. Nothing happens by coincidence.
Elle’s at that age when she’s beginning to question Santa’s existence. She is asking if he’s a real person or a spirit, if he brings gifts to little girls who backtalk their moms, and if he might have a tummy ache from all the cookies he eats before he gets to her house. She has even written him a Christmas list with a P.S. at the end explaining that her friends think he’s a “fakey” but that she still thinks he’s real.
I think this is our last year of Santa. Or of believing in a child’s Santa, at least. And it makes me a little sad. Our children have to grow up so quickly these days and it’s just not fair. To them or to us.
They can’t rides their bikes around the neighborhood alone anymore. They can’t play dodgeball at school anymore. They can’t go to music class, or art class, or P.E. anymore. They can’t even watch Cookie Monster anymore because Cookie Monster teaches them bad eating habits that will make them fat. They can’t go to the toy section alone in a department store anymore while their parents shop for barbecue grills, bathroom towels, or something else equally boring. They can’t come directly home from school anymore because both of their parents work (if they’re lucky enough to have two parents). They can’t listen to the radio anymore without hearing “ass“, “crap“, or “damn“. They can’t watch a television show with their parents anymore without being reminded that an erection lasting more than 4 hours requires emergency medical intervention.
STOP IT. Just stop it. Can’t they just be kids, for cryin’ out loud?
And this is why it makes me a little bit sad. I was into the whole Santa thing for a long time and would have continued to be had my older brother not shown me the stash in Mom and Dad’s closet. And it probably happened at a reasonable age…eleven or twelve. An age when I had yet to learn about birth control (or even birth, for that matter) and had probably just seen my first boob on TV.
“Mommy, do you believe in Santa?”
And I told her the story, a very true story, of when I was in a panic about not being able to get her what she really wanted for Christmas one year: The Disney Princess Vanity Table.
“Would you believe that I didn’t have enough money to buy you that gift? That I was around $50 short of being able to afford it? And that a very generous man I worked with handed out gift cards to our entire staff? That my gift card was worth $50?”
She smiled…”So, what happened?”
“Of course, I got you that vanity table!”
“I remember that!”
“And just a few days ago, I got an unexpected bill in the mail. But I also received an unexpected gift yesterday that included a $100 bill.”
She put two and two together. “Santa did that?”
“I think so.”
And so she believes. I do, too. It’s hard for me not to look at each coincidence as of late. The fact that financial aid paid for my APA Manual. The fact that Elle’s school daycare waived the December fees. The fact that my lawyer didn’t ask for a $5000 (yes, folks – five thousand dollars) re-hire fee. The fact that so many of my co-workers were kind enough to send me home with gifts for myself and my daughter.
My obvious issue is money. But around this time of year, it’s not the money, or lack of money, that bothers me. I live year-round with very little of it, as it is. It’s the stress that having no money puts on me by forcing me to choose between two gifts I know she really wants and can only be justified by wrapping it in Christmas paper and ribbon. It’s that time of year when I can give her all the things that she wants because she already has everything she needs. It’s the joy I see on her face when she opens the box and looks at me with a smile and talks to me with her eyes…”I’ve waited all year for this. Thank you, Mommy.”
That is what Santa gave me this year. A worry-free Christmas.
So, yes. She still believes. And even decades after being shown the stash in Mom and Dad’s closet, I still believe, too.