I had “the talk” with my son.
Oh wait, God no, not "that talk,” I had another talk with my son.
I had “the Santa talk" and let me tell you, it did not go according to plan.
I’m going to tell you something that might sound a bit boasty, but I take a lot of pride in the level of thought that I put into my parental decisions. Probably a bit too much, but as I often say to my children, there are a lot of things that you can accuse me of, but, the one thing you can never accuse me of, is not trying or not thinking about the decisions that I made as a parent.
It just so happens that my thoughts on how to handle this talk were very, very wrong.
I thought my son knew or at least kinda knew. I mean, he’s 10, going on 11, and in 5th grade. He was starting to ask questions. I knew other parents who had already had this talk. I justified this talk by telling myself that I was protecting him from being teased when he returned to school and potentially asked friends about what Santa got them for Christmas.
I thought taking my son out to a public restaurant to have this talk was a good idea. I thought that I would take him away from the chaos of home; make it special for him. I’ll get right to the point. It wasn’t.
I was wrong. I thought I said all the right things, but in my misinformed haste to protect him from his friends at school who could potentially tease him, little did I know, I was the one he needed to be protected from. I haphazardly and selfishly destroyed his still intact belief.
His response made my stomach turn with guilt.
He stared oddly into the distance, picked at his plain hamburger, shook his head and said, “it doesn’t matter what you say, I still believe.”
I had no response. For him, I’m sure it was a bit weird because I had nothing to say, and believe me, I usually have lots to say. Not one part of me, ahead of this talk, took into account the grief that he could potentially experience.
He quickly ate his fries and afterward, started messing with the wax paper in the fry basket. It’s like he didn’t know what to do with himself or his hands. I noticed tears welling up in the corner of his eyes and I had an overwhelming sense of regret. He asked if we could leave and I immediately complied. I could feel the shame he felt for starting to cry and my own shame for putting him in this uncomfortable situation.
I thought that I owed it to him, to give him the information he needed not to be blindsided at school. I thought it was better if I told him before he found out from his friends at school. Maybe this was more about me, wanting to control the narrative. At this point, I don’t know what’s right or wrong, but I knew that I needed to right this somehow.
We got home and my husband was waiting with a sensitive and supportive demeanor. I had texted him while at the restaurant that it wasn’t going well. Something to the tune of, “Mayday, Mayday, we have tears, high distress, must evacuate.”
I took him to our bedroom to allow him the space to cry, to be angry about taking him to a public restaurant to tell him “the bad news,” and to allow him to ask any questions he had.
I’m proud to say that I kinda (not entirely) but kinda redeemed myself.
We got the chance to talk about the idea of Santa and how it is so much bigger than ourselves. How it teaches us to believe in something so incredibly unbelievable and to have faith in that which we can’t see or even fully understand. How it also teaches us about sacrifice and the idea of fostering joy (even when you don’t get the credit for it.)
I heard his grief and I got the chance to tell him mine. Just as I didn’t fully understand his grief, my son didn’t fully understand mine. He didn’t understand how difficult it was for me to know that he was at a stage in his development that he was ready to even have this talk. That as a parent, you grieve the loss of this beautiful and innocent belief in something so magical.
The mood started to lighten when I told him about how difficult he had made it for my husband and I, because he always wanted and asked for these rare and often discontinued LEGO sets that were nearly impossible to find. The amount of online searching in shady, back alley, virus laden LEGO sites to find the atrociously expensive LEGO Star Wars Death Star that cost us (shakes my head) over $700 just to give the gosh dang credit to someone else. I think, in all honesty, he found a bit of humor in our misery, but I’ll take it if that makes this whole talk better for the both of us.
At the time that we were talking, our youngest, was trying to come into the room and was being his typical goofy and misbehaved self. I turned to my older son and said, “I need your help with that one,” pointing to our youngest and smiling. I could sense a shift and you could tell, there was a new sense of purpose brewing within. I told him, “Now you're on our team and we need you now more than ever.”
It had been a very long and emotional evening for the both of us and as I tucked my son into bed and fought back my own tears, I told him, “I just want you to know that it has been my honor to be Santa to you. The joy that you felt in receiving, pales in comparison to the joy that I felt in giving.”
I think he gets it now.
And as for that “other” talk……that is going to have to wait a while.