We’ve let our child believe in the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Santa from the beginning. It’s not something I’m proud of. In retrospect, I wish I could take it back. I wish we would have never started those traditions. They were cute and sweet and exciting when she was ages 1 and 2 and that pretty much signaled the end of the fun.
I finally realized the error of my ways when tLG was four. She was super obsessed with how many gifts she was going to get and she was super attached to Red Robin, our elf on the shelf. I actually thought my mistake would be short lived because she was pretty inquisitive at that age and had lots of doubts about Ole St. Nick. Not wanting her to have a terrible memory of mom breaking the bad news to her, I simply always replied “well, what do you think?” I felt confident she would figure it out on her own and ask me the point blank question, “Is Santa real?” That would be the best possible ending to this whole facade. Only, it didn’t happen that way. At all. She would doubt and then talk herself right back into the whole thing.
At age 5, I was hopeful again. She was still wishy washy on the whole Santa thing but went right on believing. When age 6 rolled around, I was over it. I blame Jen Hatmaker! (kidding. kind of.) I actually tried to plan play dates with other children who didn’t ‘believe’ in hopes that they would break the news. We slimmed down on the gifts and stopped talking about Santa in general. We didn’t go visit him at the mall. I dropped hints. Yet, she was unshakable in her belief.
I know what you are thinking. Well, you are thinking either 1 of 2 things.
Why would you want to ruin this fun and magical memory for your child?
You big coward, just come out and tell your kid the truth. Quit trying to figure out a way for someone else to correct your mistake.
I used to be in pack #1. I do want these holidays to be special and magical and memorable. Now, I’m totally with all of you folks in group #2.
So, Easter rolls around. Again, I’m still trying to ride the fence so we got the basket and, in a last-ditch effort to try to bring the message back around to the true holiday meaning, our Easter Bunny does this. Yeah, our Easter Bunny is so awesome she can build with Legos. I should confess that the heart was SO hard that I almost abandoned the whole idea. Have you ever tried to build a heart shape out of legos? It was tricky, at best.
When tLG saw that message she thought it was the coolest thing ever. And she treasured that little heart like nobody’s business. In fact, when the heart accidentally got broken by one of our guests, she erupted into a meltdown of massive proportions. I offered to help her fix it and when had I corrected the heart and handed it back to her, all I got in return was “THAT’S NOT HOW THE EASTER BUNNY DID IT!”
Oh no she didn’t.
Um, hello, I AM the Easter Bunny, you little punk!
At that moment, I realized that all this make believe and magic had wore out it’s welcome. My filter briefly registered the words and considered the consequences before they came tumbling out of my mouth, but not long enough to stop me from saying, “The Easter Bunny isn’t even real. You are having a fit about something that isn’t even real. That’s enough!“
I had just done the thing that I had been avoiding for 2.5 years. I didn’t want my child to have a traumatic experience learning that holiday characters weren’t real. Yet, I did it in the heat of the moment in a matter-of-fact and completely unloving way. Part of me was like, “whoopsie” while the other part was like, “dang, I should have done this a long time ago.”
There were more tears, as you can imagine. We snuggled up on my bed and she had a good cry about it. I apologized for not telling her sooner. I asked for her forgiveness. I tried to help her understand that Mommy wanted Easter to be a holiday that she looked forward to and having a gift might help her to remember that Jesus gave us the best gift of all. All seemed fine until I let her know that she can’t tell other kids that Mommy is the Easter Bunny because telling children the truth is a parent’s responsibility.
I wish you could have seen the look of shock on her face…. “BUT THAT’S tricking THEM!”
My little activist was ready to share the truth with everyone she knew yet she was told to keep it a secret and that parents can go right on ‘tricking’ their kids. That’s not how I see it but she totally does and, you know what, she’s probably right. Talk about a metaphor for life and a knife to this mama’s heart.
After the news had time to sink in for a few hours she came back and asked the question I had been waiting for, “but what about Santa?” By this time, I had also had a chance to get my wits about me and pray for direction on the best way to handle this with her. Clearly she had been convinced hook, line, and sinker that they were real and I had just crumbled her belief system.
I spelled out the historical truth about St. Nicholas and how his tradition of giving gifts to children has been carried on and, over time, became something that parents wanted to do for their children. I explained that we have these characters to help make Biblical holidays special for little ones. In the end, I shared that believing in Santa and the Easter Bunny is just practice for having faith until children are ready to understand and accept the real gift of Jesus’ love and the sacrifice he made by coming to this earth and overcoming sin and death on our behalf. That seemed to resonate with her a bit. I have a feeling that once she does decide to accept Jesus, her faith will be great! In the meantime, I just keep asking the Lord to draw her near.
If I were to go back in time and make this decision again on the whole Santa or no Santa thing, I would advise myself against it. I’ve seen now how it plays out on the other side and it’s not pretty. There are tons of ways to make Christmas and Easter special without “tricking” my child. Her words, not mine. As a new parent, it’s really hard to know what to do. In my case, I went along with what had been done in my childhood because it was what I knew, but I regret not putting more thought into this decision and listening to my friends along the way who had. Dishonesty is one of my biggest pet peeves in life and this decision made me into a giant hypocrite. What a mess! I can only pray that God will fill the empty spaces in both her heart and mine with His mercy and grace.