It was the end of a long day. Our nerves were shot after a six-hour drive followed by a five-hour flight back from our Thanksgiving obli-cation. I perched on the edge of my daughter’s bed as I said goodnight.
“Tomorrow you can open your advent calendar!” I reminded her.
“Yes,” she said. “And what about the Elf on the Shelf?”
The Elf on the Shelf! I forgot! Between the travel and everything else, the Elf fell through the cracks.
“Oh, I bet he’ll be here tomorrow,” I said.
My daughter looked at me very seriously for a moment. And then her eyes filled with tears.
“You know,” she said. “I don’t care if the Elf isn’t real. I still want to do it.”
“Okay,” I said.
“And Santa. A lot of kids at school don’t believe in him. But I do. I mean, I want to.”
She started to cry.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“It’s just so fun,” she said. “I know Santa might not be real, Mommy, but I want to believe.”
“Then believe,” I said.
We looked at one another and the unspoken reality that sat, heavy, between us filled the room. We both know that her childhood is slipping through our hands at a rapid pace and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. At 9 years old she’s becoming a little lady. She has opinions. And responsibilities. And in that moment I saw how hard it all is for her. How, as much as she wants to grow up, she also wants to stay little. She wants to live in the magic of it all and be a kid. For just a little bit longer. But she knows it won't last forever. And it breaks her heart. And mine.
“Tell me the truth when I’m all grown up and ready to have my own kids. Okay Mommy?” she said. “But until then I just want to believe.”
“Okay,” I said.
I pulled her little body toward me and hugged her, snuggling my face into her messy hair.
“The magic will always live in this house,” I said.
“Except for the Easter Bunny,” she said. “You can tell me the truth about that now. Because let’s be honest, it would be pretty unlikely for a bunny to hop around and deliver all those baskets.”