Christmas 2010 seems like a lifetime ago. Zacharie was just 3 and a half, Charlie not yet 1, and Christmas had all the magic.
Heck, apart from having older boys, 72 hours ago Christmas was still grand.
72 hours ago, life was so much simpler. 72 hours ago, my son still believed in Santa. 72 hours ago, my 9 and a half year old son still had a heart filled with magic.
Since then my weekend has been peppered with tears, frowns, and accusations.
“You guys are the worst parents ever!”
“My whole life is a lie!”
“You sunk my Christmas ship!”
It all started innocently enough. My wife did the old “I’m going to call Santa, if you don’t eat your dinner” thing as my son fidgeted around at the table.
“Wait, the last time you said you were going to call the Easter Bunny, you ended up telling me he was fake!,” Zacharie deduced. For the record, the Easter Bunny incident was 18 months ago.
My wife quickly marched him upstairs, out of earshot of his younger brother and she started the debriefing. We knew the day was coming. Just last week I wrote a post about the beautiful letter you can read to your kids when they discover the truth.
After my wife tried, I brought him to the basement and started to read the letter to him. I had barely started, just getting to the part about parents being the ones filling stockings and he bolted, tears flowing.
Zacharie was having none of it. He was devastated. His parents were liars and he felt that nothing that his sweet little heart believed in was true.
It’s the reaction the psychologists warn you about with some kids.
“The Santa myth is such an involved lie, such a long-lasting one, between parents and children, that if a relationship is vulnerable, this may be the final straw,” says Kathy McKay, a clinical psychologist at the University of New England, Australia. “If parents can lie so convincingly and over such a long time, what else can they lie about?”
I never had a real bubble burst for me, I figured it out on my own and adjusted pretty well. I swung to supporting the positive side of the side effects of Santa.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing for kids to believe in the myth of someone trying to make people happy if they’re behaving,” Dr. Matthew Lorber told the Huffington Post. “Imagination is a normal part of development, and helps develop creative minds.”
But for Zacharie, a boy so sweet he plays hide and seek with nature, he just couldn’t take it.
Eventually we got him in a bath, and had some quiet time. All the questions flew at my wife about everything he had known to be true. The Tooth Fairy, Leprechauns, the Switch Witch, the Santa workshop videos we love to play from Portable North Pole, all of it. Eventually, tired of talking about it, he just collapsed into bed.
“Hi George,” Zacharie said to our Elf on the Shelf when he came downstairs the next morning, like he always does. This time, with a tinge of grown up cynicism.
It broke my heart.
“I just wanted to be surprised,” he would later tell my wife about his feelings towards Christmas. “It’s not exciting anymore. I just want to go back to being happy.”
We got Nana on the phone, hoping a tender elder could mend his broken heart. “It’s all part of growing up,” she explained to him. “Well, I’m becoming a grown up at 100km/h and I don’t like it!,” he scowled.
Last night, as my wife was tucking him in, he had one more question ..“Mama. Is George fake too?”, meekly looking for a ray of hope in his storm of confusion.
“I don’t know,” she lied, as she kissed him on the forehead.
Later, when she was retelling the story to me she confessed “I just didn’t have the heart to tell him.”
What a tangled web we weave indeed.