Last night, I was sitting on the couch reading after putting the kids to bed. I heard the distinct sound of feet above my head and then I saw Noah come shuffling down the stairs, dragging his blanket a la Linus and crying.
"What's the matter, Boo?", I asked.
"Well, I was just lying in bed thinking about Christmas and wondering what I was going to get when I started thinking about Santa, his reindeer, elves and the North Pole. And suddenly, I realized how silly and childish it all is. I know magic is not real, so how can that all be real? I just want to believe in Santa, but I can't anymore and so I feel like I have lost my Christmas spirit."
My mind was racing. I knew this conversation would come eventually, but somehow, I was still caught off-guard. (and DJ was conveniently in the shower blissfully unaware of my interrogation downstairs) I was waiting for the bottom line- for him to ask me if Santa was real.
I started by saying that if not believing is making him so sad, then why didn't he just believe. He said it just seemed too childish and silly when he thought about it and he just didn't believe anymore. But, he was crying over it, so I felt he wasn't really ready to let it go.
My next approach was explaining that he didn't have to believe. But that if he didn't, he could not ruin it for any of his friends at school or other little kids- that part of the magic of Christmas is seeing them get so excited over it all. I told him that he was mistaken when he believed he had lost his Christmas spirit because Christmas spirit was inside you and had nothing to do with Santa Claus.
"Honestly, Noah, I still get excited when I see Santa Claus! Didn't you notice all the adults clapped and applauded when Father Christmas showed up at the Village Hall the other night? Don't you remember the guy in Browns Mills that drove around in his truck with a long white beard and mustache and looked EXACTLY like Santa? I would squeal and say, 'Look! It's SANTA!' every time we saw him! And I am almost forty years old!! It is what he represents that is important. It is about showing love for others, and us all taking care of one another. When Daddy saw that man walking his bike home from base the other night, because it was too dark, icy and dangerous to ride on that road, he pulled over and gave him a ride. That was helping our fellow man. That was the Christmas spirit. When you used your dollars you earned for good behavior in class to buy Zoe silly bands in your teacher's store last week, that was being kind and thoughtful toward your sister. You did something out of the kindness of your heart and made her happy. That is the Christmas spirit. Do you remember how excited you got at the Village Hall when you saw all the presents the kids brought to Father Christmas for him to deliver to a local shelter? And you even remarked to me that you thought those kids were going to be very excited. THAT is the Christmas spirit inside of you. And it doesn't have to just happen at Christmas. We should love each other, be kind to each other and take care of everyone all year around. It's called love. And that is what Christmas is all about."
By this time, DJ had appeared downstairs and clued in on this conversation. He nodded his head in affirmation of what all I had just said and added other examples of Christmas spirit to the mix. We concluded with telling Noah it was okay if he didn't believe in Santa, but that that didn't mean he had lost his Christmas spirit. I told him, essentially, each time we do a good deed for someone else, or give someone an unexpected gift just because we love them and are thinking of them, we are being Santa Claus at that moment.
He pondered this for a few seconds and then said, "Except- there is only ONE Santa Claus that lives at the North Pole and so we can't really say WE are Santa Claus."
DJ and I glanced at each other, confused, and then I think we both came to the same conclusion at once- that apparently Noah still isn't ready to give it up.
So, we nodded and said, "That's right, now go to bed!" and sent him on his way.
For the record he never once asked me if Santa was real or if we were Santa. And I still am unsure if he believes or not.
So for now, I guess the spirit of Santa lives a little longer in our house.
And hopefully, our discussion instilled in him that the spirit of Christmas lives within us, always.