Let me just preface by saying that if you have a
So, Rachael has been asking a lot of questions about Santa lately. So much so that I was reasonably certain that this past Christmas would be the last that she believed in Santa - and even so, I'm sure she had her doubts. At nearly nine years old, plenty of her friends have stopped believing and oh so kindly shared their disbelief with her. Rachael also has a fondness for internet research, and has read plenty on the topic of Santa's realness, or lack thereof.
All through the Christmas season, we answered her queries as best we could, without over-embellishing. But man, was the child persistent. She didn't ask the typical "how does Santa visit every child in one night?" She figured that out based on time zones and deemed it plausible. However, she wanted to know what kind of sleigh he had. Where the reindeer lived. How they learned to fly. What were all of the jobs that elves could hold, and how accurate was the movie Elf. Why some people received more gifts from Santa than others. And what was Santa's email address, so she could address a few issues personally...
I thought that once Christmas was over, the issue would drop until Christmas rolled around again. I was wrong.
She fretted over it. She kept the questions coming. She was clearly suspicious, while claiming that she was not.
This afternoon, she and Milly went outside with Gene and they went into the storage building for something. Inside, she (who is admittedly a tad nosy) discovered several rolls of red Santa-print wrapping paper - the same paper in which Santa always wraps her gifts.
Well, Santa must have bought that stuff in bulk, because I had forgotten it was even out there. I used the stash from the back of my bedroom closet this past Christmas, and didn't even venture into the storage building to hunt for extra paper. And Gene, of course, has probably never even noticed what kind of paper Santa wraps gifts in to begin with.
Rachael stomped into the house, clearly angry, and informed me of her find. I neither confirmed nor denied, simply stating that I wasn't aware of Santa paper in the shed. (See above: I really had forgotten!)
It was clearly time. The questions and discoveries were becoming too complex for me to keep brushing them aside. The explanations would have to be more and more detailed, and that is where (to me) it crosses over the line from harmless fun to something else entirely. It was time to let Rachael in on the secret. I prayed that my girl would take it well. And I thanked God for Pinterest, although I doubt He cares much about it one way or another.
You see, I had pinned this letter on Pinterest some time back, having fallen in love with the sentiment and knowing that I would need to unashamedly plagiarize it in the not-too-distant future.
Go read the letter. Seriously. I'll wait.
Rachael and I share a journal that we pass back and forth to each other. It is completely confidential - not even Daddy is allowed to look inside. So I grabbed the journal and a pen, and recreated that letter. I changed it a little, to fit our situation better. I left off a bit here and there and added some thoughts about her faith in God in the "capacity to believe" paragraph. I broke the rules and let Daddy read just the letter (and nothing else), said a little prayer over it, and left the journal on the coffee table. It was no time at all before she noticed and retreated with it to her room.
A few minutes later, she emerged, both smiling and glaring, because girlfriend has got it that way. I had expected tears, so glaring was a welcome relief.
She had one question for me: what about Elwin?
Elwin is our Elf on the Shelf elf. The girls look forward to his arrival on the day after Thanksgiving, and are generally more excited about him and his antics than they are about Santa. I knew she would ask about Elwin. And I took the cowardly way out, replying only with, "what do you think?"
She knew. And she cried. She ran back to her room, and I followed her. Explained that nothing would change. Elwin would still come, and it would be just as much fun. She could even help decide what he would do next. She asked where I kept him between Christmases, and I refused to tell her. Hey, full disclosure is no fun for anyone.
After she thought about it for a few minutes, the barrage of questions began. Does Santa shop at Walmart? (Very rarely.) How about Amazon? (Definitely.) Does Daddy eat the cookies? (Do you even need to ask?)
And after the questions, the realizations.
The books that were already loaded on her Kindle. So THAT'S why Moby Dick was one of them!
Her giant stuffed frog, where did he come from? The MUSEUM? He was the very same giant frog that used to sit at a cafe table eating a plate of plastic bugs? How COOL!
But...all of those gifts must COST so much. Mommy and Daddy spent THAT much on me, all at once? Wow...thank you!
(Disclaimer: Christmas in our house is really VERY moderate, compared to lots and lots of people I know. We do the best we can, but we're not rich people. However, my children aren't used to "just because" toys, so knowing that THE PARENTS provided so many all at once rather blew her little mind.)
And then, the resigned certainty that if Santa and Elwin weren't on the up and up, then neither were the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy.
But...that means...that we did those too. She was in awe. Completely unbeknownst to her...her parents were FUN! I mean, the Tooth Fairy always, always leaves a big trail of pink glitter in her wake, and Rachael would NEVER have expected ME of going to such lengths for her amusement - especially since I tend to complain about the glittery mess the next morning.
In the space of fifteen minutes, anger and disappointment turned into gratitude and fascination. No, Santa as she had understood him was no more...but instead, she realized a new extent of her parents' devotion to her - that we delighted in her so much that we were willing to go to these lengths to create something magical and joyful for her. We were amazing, and (thanks to that pink glitter), we were COOL.
Well. As the letter states, knowing the secret effectively makes one a part of Team Santa. She is trusted not to ruin the fun for her sister (or ANYONE else), and was adamant that she would not want to do that. But later in the evening, she brought me a folded letter addressed to "Santa, or Team Member", and asked if I would deliver it. And the child WINKED at me.
Her letter read:
Thank you for the frog.
Given my newfound knowledge and being on your team - this holiday season, instead of sending my wish list to you, I'll give it to my mother who is also on the team.
I wish you a successful year.
I love that kid so much.
And so we embark on a new stage of our journey together. She is, undeniably, growing up. She has always been an old soul in a young body, equipped with more intuition, compassion, and forgiveness expected from a child of her age. She loves being privy to a secret or a joke, and craves the closeness associated with shared experiences. So now we have opportunities for new experiences opened to us both, and new kinds of memories to make together. I can't wait.
I don't want for my girls to grow up. It breaks my heart to think that someday they'll be grown and gone from this house. But I'm seeing some good in these hard growing-up moments...like the realization that when she is grown, she is going to be an amazing friend.