Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Farewell, Santa (Or as I Like to Call It: Epic Parenting Fail)

When I say that Christmas 2018 was beautiful and nearly perfect, I mean it. The weather, the food, the gifts, the spirit--everything.

Except for our drive home from Brad sister Amy's house Christmas night. And what occurred will join my list of "Worst Parenting Moments Ever." It may be close to the top of that list, to be honest.

Brad and I have been playing Santa for 28 straight Christmases. Eve is nine years old, and Brad thought that this would be a good year to play our Santa finale. We discussed letting them in on the joy of Santa and the Christmas spirit, and decided he would be the one to tell her (and Hyrum, although we were pretty sure he knew), but we never determined a time frame of when to broach the subject. This was a huge mistake, it turns out.

Unfortunately, because our Santa's workshop experience on Christmas Eve went soooooo late and soooooo long, and because Tucker had also helped with setup for a video game, the adults at the Sanatorium were less than careful in the discussions of our Christmas Eve antics. Hyrum picked up on the slips fairly quickly and would make veiled comments, seeing if we would take the bait, but we played it off for the rest of the day.

Until we were driving home from Amy's, that is.

I can't remember exactly what I said, but my comment made it impossible to cloud the origin of a Santa gift. This time, Hyrum piped up.

"What? Is Santa real?"

I didn't know how to react.

I mean, I've been protecting Santa's identity for almost three decades now, but was it time to step out of the witness protection program and fess up?

I looked at Brad, and he didn't start talking. It was getting awkward, so I finally said, "Santa isn't real."

Just like that.

Flat and cold and unfeeling.

How could I do that?

The silence.

Then, the quiet sobs from the back corner of the Suburban.

With those three words, I broke my baby daughter's heart and ruined her perfect Christmas.

It was awful.

We still had five minutes in the car, and Brad and I voiced some drivel about "Christmas Spirit" and "Santa is real, if you believe" but the hole got deeper and deeper, and Eve's shattered dreams hung over all of us like the igniting Hindenberg.

It got worse.

I don't know which of the kids started it, but someone started to laugh.

And that embarrassed Eve. Everyone but her knew the truth about Santa, and not only had she just learned he wasn't real, but they were laughing at her. In the kids' defense, I think they were laughing because of the awkward situation, but that's not what she thought.

When we got home, everyone else got out of the car, and I climbed into the back seat next to my brokenhearted baby. My baby who no longer holds any vestige of baby beliefs in magical beings who circle the globe on Christmas Eve bearing perfect gifts just for her.

In that moment, all I wished is that I could take it all back. That I could conjure the Santa magic for her again and keep it for her forever.

Instead, we snuggled in the back seat for ten minutes as I answered all her questions. Occasionally one of my responses would trigger a fresh round of tears and sobs, and I would squeeze her tight again.

"Mom, I wanted him to be real." I know, sweetheart.

"You bought me this watch?" I did.

"I'm so sad." Me too, Dolly. Me too.

"The girl next to me at school told me, 'I DON'T BELIEVE IN SANTA!' But I told her that I did!" (I had no response for that one. What could I say?)

"At least I got one last Christmas" (This was followed by a body-shaking sob, and I could barely hold back my own tears.)

Wow. I thought the birds and the bees talk had been hard with her (which, ironically, occurred earlier this week). 

My sweet, trusting, believing, happy, green-eyed blond baby--sitting next to me on the seat with tears streaming down her face. 

And I had done that to her.

How could I?

I know it was bound to happen sometime, but did I have to be the perpetrator? Shouldn't it have been some kid on the playground? Not her mom!

I was crushed, almost as deeply as she was.

This morning she showed me what she wrote in her new journal, and it salved the wound a little, but this is a parenting fail I will regret forever.

Farewell, Santa. Thank you for 28 magical Christmases at the Denton Sanatorium. We will miss you.

And I wish with all my heart we could have extended your magical visits at least one more year.

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