Lately, Emmeline has been asking me quite frequently if Santa is real. This took me by huge surprise, considering she's only five years old. I believed in Santa at least until I was around eight years old. And then I discovered the truth, which was helped along by the fact that Santa used to leave my sister and I notes on Christmas morning--notes that would thank us for the milk and cookies and tell us that he hoped that we liked our presents, etc. When I was about eight, I noticed that Santa's handwriting looked, remarkably, exactly like my mother's handwriting.
Anyway--I thought I had a few more years with Emmeline. I know that everyone has different opinions on whether you should encourage a belief in Santa Claus or not, seeing as how it pretty much amounts to completely and bald-facedly lying to your child, glorifying a religious holiday that you don't particularly believe in if you're not religious, or taking away from the importance of the real meaning of the holiday, if you're a certain type of Christian. I get all of that--but for me, I loved the experience of not being able to sleep on Christmas Eve out of sheer excitement in anticipation of Santa's visit. I remember vividly the torture of not being able to go downstairs to see what Santa had left until the entire family was ready to go downstairs--I recall that the time it took my mother to get her robe on and wash her face seemed like an eternity plus a few extra years. And I don't recall being that upset when my suspicions that Santa wasn't real were confirmed.
I don't know. Am I setting my child up for crushing disappointment when she finds out the truth? I don't think so, as I most definitely lean on the side of children needing to believe in magic as long as possible. Which is why I bought a "reindeer harness" at K-Mart last year, complete with jingle bells on it, and left it on our porch on Christmas morning. The look on Emmeline's face, when she went out onto the porch and found some jingle bells that had "fallen off" of one of Santa's reindeer, is one of the happiest memories of my life. The look on her face was one of sheer awe. She still talks about it and is planning to leave the harness out for Santa with a note this year, telling him that she's taken good care of it all year and and that she wants Vixen, or Comet, or whichever reindeer it belonged to, to have it back because they've probably been sad, thinking they lost it.
So, my heart hurts a little bit that my daughter is already asking me if Santa is real, thanks to kindergarten (I don't know why it didn't come up in pre-K). I've been unsure of how to respond and have pretty much just gone with, "Well, what do you think?"
Her answer is always that of course she believes in Santa, so I've got at least one more year. I'm guessing it may be the last one, though.
Nevertheless, it's resulted in some highly entertaining comments from Emmeline. First, she told me a that little boy in her class that we'll call Anton had told her that Santa isn't real. She went on to tell me that Anton said that if you believe in God, then you can't believe in Santa. And if you believe in Santa, then you don't believe in God. (Thanks, Anton's mom, for opening up that hornets' nest.) But then she went on to tell me that Anton said that the Easter Bunny is totally real.
About a week later, while leaving a friend's house after the Saints game, she asked me if Jeremy Shockey is real. It cracked me up that she even knew who Jeremy Shockey is--guess I'm rubbing off on her. And who told her that Jeremy Shockey wasn't real? Why, Anton, of course. Now I'm trying to figure out what Anton's mom has against Santa and Shockey.