This may sound strange, but I had one of the best Christmases ever this year since my kids stopped believing in Santa.
They're 10 and 8, so they're young enough to still believe, but they put enough clues together and begged me to tell them the truth. At first, I was sad--as if a piece of their innocent childhood was ending. I assumed Christmas would no longer be fun, but what I didn't know is that it would make Christmas feel even more real to me and put the focus back on family and love.
After I told my kids the truth about Santa, I could see them doing the mental math of all the crazy things I've done each Christmas, realizing it wasn't Santa after all.
"What about Santa's muddy foot print by the door?"
"It was me, and I loved seeing the look on your face."
"But the elves moved each night. When did you do that?"
"I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m., and I'll probably keep doing it because it's fun."
"But all those presents--YOU paid for them?
"Sure did. I started saving during the summer to make it happen, and I love doing it so much.
I realize parents go out of their way to hide the truth of the adult world, but I let my kids in, and I see now what's even more magical than my children's belief in Santa is their belief in ME, in knowing I take pride in doing silly things to make the season magical because family is the best gift of all.
Both kids came over to me, hugged me, and said, "I love you. Thank you."
Perhaps you're a less selfish person than I am, but I have to admit that felt amazing. Sometimes parenting is a thankless job, and I can feel like I'm giving all the love and not exactly getting praise, so a little acknowledgment made this mama feel the Christmas spirit in a way I've never known.
Now don't get me wrong--I'm not telling my kids they should only believe in things they can see. Faith in things beyond our understanding is a great tool to have and one I choose to instill in them, but I also like that they're beginning to see that the beauty and magic of the Christmas season lives in how real people touch real people each day.
My daughter's class recently went to a nursing home to sing to residents, and she told me one of the residents cried because she was so moved. I told my daughter the gift she and her classmates gave was more powerful and full of more Christmas spirit than any jolly man in a red suit flying around with reindeer.
So, yes, a part of my kids' childhood has been changed. They no longer believe in Santa, but an even bigger part of them is being cultivated--a belief and acknowledgment of how hard a parent works to bring them love and joy.
Along with that comes he slightest glimmer of, dare I say, appreciation for the gifts that seemed to magically appear.
It's easier to play along and believe in fairy tales, but what's more rewarding is believing in what's right in front of you and knowing the magic and love between people runs far deeper than we can imagine, and the real power of the season lives in how we treat each other. The reality of that is more magical and hopeful than Santa could have ever dreamed up.