When you are 6 and 3, there are a few truths. White milk tastes better in a pink cup. Peas can never touch the potatoes. And on Christmas Eve, a fat guy in a red suit will somehow squeeze down the chimney and leave presents under the tree.
If there is one thing my kids believe in with absolute conviction is that something magical will happen on Christmas Eve. There is not even an inkling of doubt that what happens 6 days from now will not be real. The fact that Santa couldn’t be real is inconceivable – a possibility that has never entered their consciousness.
For weeks now, the talk around our house has been of Christmas. Of the family and friends we have coming, of the meals we will prepare, of the parties we will be going to. All of this is adding to their excitement level. They are vibrating with anticipation.
When The Girl was born my wife and I struggled with the mythology of the season. Is it okay to lie to your kids? Because, window dress it all you like, it is a lie.
It’s a struggle Chad at Vancouver Parent has been blogging about in an excellent series of articles which has provoked tons of response, including some supposedly from kids who stumbled across his article in Google and had their world shattered. Chad, I don’t think you need to lose sleep over this one. It’s an inevitable fact that they would have found out anyway.
In the end, our decision was that childhood is a place where fairies and magic, bunnies that leave chocolate eggs, and fat guys who bring toys exist. In the culture we have grown up in, this mythology is part of of what makes childhood special and unique. The absolute conviction that this stuff is real is a big part of “the magic”.
In my twenties I spent many years working in commercial radio. During that time I grew to despise Christmas. Christmas just meant I had to work twice as hard selling people stuff. I spent countless hours locked in a voiceover studio pumping out commercial after commercial. My on location work tripled, and Christmas Eve was often spent on location at various businesses around town trying to do a last minute pitch jobs on sweaters and stereo equipment, only to pick up the pitch on Boxing Day. By the time I hit 30, I was done with Christmas, and with commercial radio.
Since then Christmas has slowly became a more meaningful time of year. But it hasn’t been until this year that I have truly felt that mythical “magic” of the season. It feels like when I was a kid, and I attribute this to the fact that my kids are entering their peak Christmas years. They get it, and their excitement is infectious. I find that I am anxiously looking forward to a 6am wake up call to witness the magic unfold.
I am mindful that this will only last for a few years. The Girl is smart. She asks questions. And this years unwavering belief could become shadowed next as she spends more time with peers and in school with bigger kids. This may be the only year where they both live with the absolute reality that magic still exists. And I am going to soak it up.
As tough as the lifegrind sometimes seems to be, I know that when I am a drooling old fart these are the days that I will look back on as the best days of my life. And part of that is tied to the fact that I am feeding off the excitement of my kids. They are making this a magical time of the year for me, too. I am having so much fun with them as we all get swept up.
You see, in the end, it is really all about me. Selfish old me. I tell them the lie because I want them to believe in the magic because their belief is MY magic. It ‘s a magic that weaves an intoxicating spell over me and sweeps me up in tides of gushing sentimentalism.
The lie is not a lie we parents tell our kids, it’s a lie parents tell to ourselves because we want to believe. We want these moments to be pure and sparkling and live long in our memories. The lie becomes a device – an excuse we use to generate the energy and the excitement that heightens all senses, which helps to indelibly burn these shared family moments into our memories for years.
This year, for the first time since I believed the lie myself, I do believe in the magic of Christmas because I am living it with my kids. And that is why I am happy I told the lie.