My sons, who I have had since they were babies, adopted from foster care, are both eleven years old. They both still believe in Santa Claus.
I take full responsibility for this. One skill, that those of us who have spent any time in a closet learn, is how to create the illusion of life as those around us want it to be, rather than what it necessarily is. After a solid decade of hiding and building facade around my sexual orientation, doing the Santa gig was a piece of cake, all the way down to photoshopping “proof” of the the big guy standing in the middle of our actual living room.
Now my kids are older and they have a bombardment of friends who “know,” and are eager to tell them their perspectives. One close friend has already informed them that Santa “does not exist.”
My son Jesse dismissed the notion. “He does not exist for HER because she no longer believes,” he let me know.
My dilemma has been brewing for two years — do I tell them, or do I let the natural information from their peers take over? There is nothing about option two that I find attractive. I would rather be upfront about it, and take the hit, the disappointment and even the anger rather than be talked about behind my back, lose the management of the information and look like a fool.
That’s settled. There will be a talk. Now… what to say? As I was trying to formulate my thoughts on this again this year, (I went through this last year too and bailed), the Christmas season bombarded arrived despite my best efforts to delay it.
One of our family traditions is for us to cuddle up in our big easy chairs, turn out the lights and watch the movie Polar Express.
In case you are a Christmas-milieu Rip Van Winkle and do not know “Polar Express,” it is a magical production where doubting kids are taken late at night on Christmas eve to the North Pole to witness the departure of Santa Claus and to possibly receive the “first gift.”
One of the sub-plots of the movie is that those who “still believe” can hear the tinkling sounds of Santa’s sleigh bells, and that those who no longer believe, can’t.
As we sat this year in the dark, all of us breathing in captive wonder, I found myself tearing and emotional as the lead character shakes the bell and the tiny tinkle of belief peels out.
I wanted to gush out in sentimental sobs, until the thought crossed my mind…. “Wait a minute, bub, aren’t you the dude planning on how he is going to tell his kids that there is NO Santa. What’s with the tears?”
After the movie, I went upstairs and looked at a painting displayed there. It was one that I got in a gift exchange from work two years ago. That year, I had suggested we all give each other only hand made things that reminded us of the person to whom we were giving the present. My gift was from my friend Tara. It was a simple blue painting that reads: “I still believe…”
I was looking at that painting when I put my foot down. “I DO still believe.”
The next day, my sons wrote their letters to Santa Claus and gave them to me for their “safe” delivery. I asked them if they wanted to go see Santa at the mall. “No.” they both responded matter-of-factly.
When I asked why, Jesse looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “We wrote to him. I think we are covered. Besides, I want to see if by not going to see him, he gets worried and picks me up this year for the Polar Express.” Uhhh ohhh.
There will be a talk. It won’t be the one I planned on giving, but instead, it will be the one that I truly… believe.
Here is my open draft:
Hi guys. I have been meaning to have this talk with you for some time now…