My youngest son announced the other day, "I know Santa is really moms and dads. But I'm just going to go with it." I was saddened by the fact that my youngest child no longer believes in Santa, but impressed with his honest and matter-of-fact way of letting us know. His older brothers have never challenged the Santa Myth quite so directly. There have been comments about the impossibility of Santa's gift-giving journey around the world in one night, or how exactly he could fit down the chimney and what about houses that don't have chimneys? What about the kids who don't get any presents from Santa because they're Jewish? I have answered all these questions and more by saying something along the lines of "it's magical, isn't it?" I have tried my best not to directly lie. I have not come out and said there is no Santa either.
This makes it all rather difficult to have a conversation about preserving the beliefs of friends and especially younger cousins. I really don't want my sisters mad at me for destroying Santa at their houses. I'd rather leave that up their friends at school.
So while mourning the loss of innocence in my house, I was ever so slightly distracted and didn't notice that my youngest son has not only turned into a skeptic, he is now a snoop as well. Every second in which he is not being directly watched, he is rummaging around through closets and rifling through drawers. I am shocked. For years before this, I could leave an unwrapped gift laying around in almost plain sight and no one would notice it. This year, my youngest may have discovered every present before I've had a chance to wrap it. He might know exactly what he is getting, and he might know exactly what his brothers are getting. I don't know for sure though, because in addition to being a skeptic and a snoop, he is also a very smooth story-teller.
I believed in Santa until I was probably ten years old. I thought only Santa could possibly know how much I wanted my very own giant jar of sweet pickles (he delivered, even in the days before Costco) and another year how much I wanted that huge set of plastic Barbie shoes and purses in every color. I wasn't much of a snoop myself but I must admit that one year I did ever-so-carefully unwrap one of my presents enough to see what it was before I closed it all back up again. I don't remember what the gift was but I do remember feeling an odd mixture of pride in being so sneaky and getting away with it, and a disappointment that the surprise was spoiled.
Some of my friends tell me that the youngest child tends to be the one who questions the status quo. This is a desirable trait in an adult, but NOT in a seven year old who is out of school, hyped up on See's Candies and beside himself with excitement a couple days before Christmas. Today I had to take him to my husband's office for an hour or two, to get him out of the house so I could wrap and/or hide things. And so I could hear myself think.
Next year I may be forced to take the advice of another friend (older and wiser), who told me that he arranges to drop off all gifts for his three children at a friend's house. He provides all the supplies and the friend wraps everything and holds on to the gifts until they are ready to put them under the tree. This was a revolutionary idea to me, something I just never would have come up with myself. Any volunteers?