Like a dictator might do with his generals, I was doling out my daily bribes to get the kids to behave. At Christmas the bribes tend to be more effective. ‘Santa is watching you right now,’ I’ll warn when the kids are being particularly bad. This tends to get better results than issuing vague threats such as ‘I will take one of your toys away’ or ‘You’ll get a time out.’
The other day the Chatterbox was acting less like a seven-year-old and more like a sassy teenager. I brought out my old standby Santa line when she casually said: ‘I don’t know if I believe in Santa anymore.’
I’d been half expecting something like this, but I’m still taken by surprise. It feels so quick. I’d like to think I have the energy to stage some elaborate ruse to get my seven-year-old to believe again, but I’m kind of short of ideas. Perhaps I could leave muddy Santa prints on the floor of our tiny living room, knowing that a half-eaten cookie and empty glass of milk is probably not going to cut it anymore.
The reality is that this will maybe buy me a year, but it’s likely she won’t be deceived next Christmas.
Every parent tells you that children grow fast. I’m reeling by how fast. One moment she’s a toddler with chubby little hands, the next she’s a long-limbed girl who likes to listen to Katy Perry. It’s frightening, and I’m not just talking about her taste in music.
I find a letter sent to the editor of the New York Sun many years ago. Eight-year-old Virginia wrote it to the newspaper, at the suggestion of her father, when she had doubts about Santa. The editor wrote her a thoughtful and touching reply, which is well worth reading.
My friend in Los Angeles also sent me a standout letter (see below) from one mom and dad to their disbelieving child.
In the meantime, of course, Santa is still spending his money, whether the children believe in him or not. I suspect this will not change with the passing of years.