Santa Is Real If You Know Where to Look

I’ll never forget it. I was in fourth grade, December, cheerleading practice after school in a room full of bubbly girls. One minute I jumped with excitement, innocence. The world was a good place. The next minute, Anna walked up to me, got in my face, and stared hard at me with her enormous eyes. I wondered what I had done to tick her off.

“Did you hear?” she asked.

“What?” I cowered.

“Santa isn’t real,” she said. With those three words, my childhood was crushed. I never doubted her. She was a fifth grader after all. I was stinkin’ mad. “Why did you tell me that?” I growled back. The magic, the possibility, the awe—she yanked it away like my favorite baby doll and ripped its head off. And I’ve always kind of hated her for that.

I never mentioned to my parents what Anna said. I played the charade, spent several Christmases pretending I believed because I didn’t know whether I would still get presents, but Christmas morning just wasn’t as fun anymore. (Turns out, you do still get presents.)santapic

And it turns out the magic didn’t really go away either. It just took me a long time to find it again. I never got it as a kid, that whole thing about giving is better than receiving. I’ve found in my older age that if I can do a little something extra every year for at least one person, that’s what the season is about. It’s about giving to someone in need, giving to someone you love, giving to someone you don’t know, making or doing something a little extra special for even one person. In a world where there’s never enough time to stop, this is the time of year when I try to go out of my way anyway.

That’s what I try to teach my kids, but it’s hard when I’m also trying to get them to pare down their Christmas lists. I don’t know if they get that, but one day they will. And I don’t mind them wanting some Christmas magic too. I know how important it was to me as a child, daring to dream of bigger things.

So when my fourth-grade son asked me yesterday, “Is Santa real? I think it’s you. Please tell me,” it was hard for me. I thought about Anna and how I didn’t want to be that person for him. But I told him the truth because one thing I’ve learned after all these years: Santa exists, in all of us.

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26 Comments

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26 responses to “Santa Is Real If You Know Where to Look

  1. Love this story. For some reason I don’t remember the moment I found out Santa didn’t exist….I think it was gradual for me and even as an adult with 2 small children, santa still comes to visit me when I’m home for the holidays :) It was always such a magical time for me growing up- the Christmas music, the food, the lights, the family. Now that I have 2 little boys I’m seeing the excitement and wonder of Santa through their eyes and I hope that even after they find out the truth they will still believe.

  2. Oh that last line gives me goosebumps. So true.

  3. My mom is so giving! She gives to all of her children on a daily basis. The other day I told her that she was our Santa because she is always thinking and doing for us. I truly believe that a little bit of Santa lives in all of us. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  4. I just wrote a post on a similar subject. I like the way you answered your son’s question and I don’t blame you at all for still being mad at that girl. I would be, too!

    • Thank you. I don’t think I will ever forget that moment and how I felt. Up until then, I don’t think I ever doubted it. I must have been sheltered. But I loved to pretend and was quite caught up in my imaginary play. After that, I do think things changed for me but I don’t know if that’s the case for everyone.

  5. One of my most poignant and sad moments as a Mom came one September, the night before school started, and my boys (entering fifth and third grade) asked me that question. I replied with “Do you really want me to answer you?” and they said yes. So I told them. Then I cried, and they comforted me…….

    • One thing that struck me as my son was asking me was how grown-up he looked. He is starting to look so much older and here he is standing in front of me, having this conversation that I knew was coming because it really came last year and I shooed it away, which is probably why he begged me so fiercely to tell him the truth. Good for him for not beating around the bush, I guess. He said EVERYONE has been talking about it and he just wanted to know one way or another. It actually didn’t make me too sad since I was in fourth grade when I found out about it. He seemed so proud to know and not crushed that I think I did a good thing. ;)

      • I’m sure he was ready, as mine were! It was me who wasn’t ready to let it go……
        Isn’t funny when we have those moments of looking at our children and seeing them literally growing up before our eyes?

  6. santa does exist. he’s the magic in people… you’re a very good mommy (and person). the last couple of months you disappeared from my feed??!! it was weird. i went and re-followed. so glad you’re back with me! :) happy holidays.

    • Thanks for refollowing! Yes, I do think the spirit of Santa is alive and well. There are a lot of good Christmas movies about this magic too. Maybe this weekend I’ll even have time to watch one!

      • of course – you’re one my first and favorites! :)
        what’s a good christmas movie.. ? last year, i loved arthur chirstmas… or are you talking adult. hahaha

  7. I am dreading the time my son asks me this– he’s ten and he still believes. I remember my older brothers telling me and I think I actually took it well because I already had my suspicions.

    • You never know. He may already know. I know my son knew last year, I just never confirmed it, turned my head at it. But when they ask you point-blank and look you in the eyes, what can you do?

  8. Oh boy. The does Santa exist question is going to be a tough one. I am hoping I have a couple more years before I have to face that one. You handled it quite well and I hope I can do the same when the time comes.

  9. I would not know how to respond to that question (probably “go and ask your Papa…”), I hope it doesn’t come for a while. I love your response though, maybe I’ll use that!

    I remember being sceptical about Santa and setting a trap so I could finally see him in action (this trap involved a bit of string, with one end tied to the stocking on the end of my bed and the other end tied to my big toe). It failed…

    • That’s very clever of you. I remember keeping my sister up all night, wondering what we’d get and thinking any stray sound was sleigh bells. Thankfully my kids just sleep!

  10. I don’t know if you ever read this, but last year I posted the story of Dimples’ Santa discovery – http://whatimeant2say.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/who-do-you-think-pulls-the-sleigh/#comments

  11. Loved reading about your Santa experience (your Uncle Ed sent me the link to your post for today, about your gramma, sweet!) … anyway, reading through these musings about the Santa issue, I thought I’d share a book title with you, the absolute best one on this topic: The Santa Story Revisited: How to Give Your Children a Santa They Will Never Outgrow (by Arita Trahan and Norma Eckroate) – and it shows how to answer the Big Santa Question in a way that is completely win-win for everyone!

  12. Ms Pang

    Absolutely love this post. I come from a country where there is summer all year round and because I am a free thinker, my family never celebrates Christmas at all. But I want to make it a point to celebrate it when I get married, with my husband and my future children :)

  13. My 5th grader knows. He and a couple of his good friends are secret “believers,” against the generally accepted thought of the rest of his class. When he asked me, I asked with a question, “Do YOU believe?” He always answers with a yes. I think he enjoys the magic and surprise on Christmas morning with his younger siblings, who all still believe (Santa’s unwrapped presents, missing milk and cookies are a noticeable difference in the family room).

    When he does figure it out, I think the secret will be safe with him. For all those younger than him. I can’t stand ratbag 4th and 5th graders who ruin it for everyone else (like your friend did!).

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