Seven years ago, we started a family tradition. The Tuesday following Thanksgiving, we headed over to the biggest mall in our area and had our daughter's picture taken with the best Santa I've ever seen. As you can see, the picture was amazing.
So we returned the following year, and the year after that. Those years involved crying and terror, but by the time my daughter was three and a half, she was back to smiling while sitting on Santa's lap. Eventually she insisted that my husband and I also be in the photo, which we've done for the last two years.
I began discussing the annual Santa photo with Tori last week; I was broaching the delicate topic of trying to buy her a dressy outfit, because she's utterly unwilling to wear dresses or dress up in any way these days. To my surprise, she stated, unequivocally, that she will NOT be taking a photo with Santa this year.
"It's not REALLY Santa," she declared. "He'd need a private jet to get to the mall every day!" I tried to argue with her, reminding her that OF COURSE Santa has a magic jet that can get him anywhere he needs to go when he's not carrying presents. But she scoffed - actually SCOFFED - and explained to me, patiently, that the idea was ludicrous.
She's teetering on the edge of losing the magic that is Santa. She still believes in the ACTUAL Santa; she just knows the mall Santa is NOT the REAL one. But that belief is on shaky ground, too: she often tests my husband and I, watching our faces carefully as she wonders out loud if what we call Santa is really just her parents. Luckily, my husband and I both have excellent poker faces and have fooled her thus far.
But I doubt that will be the case next year. I am pretty sure that this is our last Christmas holiday with Santa in this family. And that breaks my heart.
*INSERT LENGTHY DIATRIBE ABOUT KIDS GROWING UP TOO FAST HERE*
As a child, I never believed in Santa. No pictures of me visiting Santa exist. My mother was one of those parents that believed spinning the magical tale that is Santa was dishonest, a way of lying and controlling children, and patently unfair. As I've watched my daughter grow up I've felt my loss of that magic rather acutely; I'm one of those adults who's crazy about Christmas, and a part of me today still believes in a tiny way that Santa is real - no matter what my mother told me.
I'm hoping that regardless of my daughter's newfound cynicism, she will keep a bit of the magic of Santa throughout her life. Given the way she's been talking all week about the return of her Elf on the Shelf, she still believes in Christmas magic, just a little. I'm praying that she holds on to that, for just a few more years. Because there really is something beautiful about it all.
-By Cecily Kellogg
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