Wednesday, December 2, 2009

To tell the truth (a Santa story)

So it's that time of year again. The time when parents hide stashes of "stuff" and secret wrapping paper, fake handwriting on tags, eat cookies and drink milk in the middle of the night, after deciphering budding penmanship on sweet, "I've-been-so-good-angels-look-bad" letters.

Except I thought that part would be over by now.

Emma is 11, will turn 12 in just a few too-short months. A few years ago, she found where the Santa paper was hidden. (What she was doing wayyyyyyyyyy under the couch along the wall, I have no idea.) I was on the phone when she found it, and she was VERY upset. Luckily my call gave me a few extra minutes to think, and the best I came up with was "Santa must shop at Target also! And I bought that paper for Christmas and lost it!" I didn't think she bought it, but like the tooth fairy, she seemed to realize that if she admitted she knew the truth the extra gifts would stop.

Last year, many months after Christmas she and I were talking about her Nintendo DS. Does anyone else have trouble keeping up with which gifts were from you and which were from Santa?? I said something about finding it, or something along those lines that made it obvious we bought it, and she said "That one was from Santa, Mom." But again, she was fine; she seemed to understand the arrangement perfectly.

Then this year. Oh boy, this year...

It started at Thanksgiving dinner. We were with my parents, and they had invited a friend over. The conversation turned to my dad's siblings (ten in all) and I asked how many were born in September (four of them). The men joked about what Santa got for Christmas that year... my mom pointed out that I was a Christmas "present" also... and the Santa getting lucky jokes continued. I looked at Emma, who doesn't miss anything (unfortunately) and she wasn't phased a bit. I quickly changed the subject (this was my GRANDMA, people!) and everything was fine. She never brought it up.

Then on Sunday, we were getting our Christmas tree and decorations out of our storage building. Way back when Emma was four, Santa brought her the giant wooden Barbie house from the JC Penney catalog. It's 5 feet high, 4 feet wide, and three stories. Now that she is 11, it's been moved to storage also. I had to slide it out of the way to get to the Christmas decorations, and made the comment that it wasn't as sturdy as it was when we bought it. (Yeah, I know, bad mom...but it just slipped!) She called me out on it, and I told her that I actually said "when Santa brought it" not "when we bought it" although she wasn't convinced. But even as she was pouting, she was hiding laughter. Seemed like she was faking her upset, right?

That's what I thought. Last night my mom came to visit, and as she and Emma were at the dinner table working on homework I was cooking dinner. Emma was telling Mom about the dollhouse incident, and she was VERY upset still! I chalked it up to extra drama; she was tired and it was way past dinner time and she was starving. That combination just breeds crankiness and drama. The pouting continued all night, though, and when she went to bed she told Chris she said she didn't like being lied to.

Wow. I had assumed for the past couple years that she had figured out the whole Santa thing. She no longer corrected when people on TV talked about "the truth" and didn't react to adult conversations she overheard about Santa. I really thought she knew but was just keeping up appearances! I don't even remember how old I was when I figured it all out, but there was no issue or drama with it; it was just part of growing up. It never occurred to me she might feel betrayed or be upset by the whole thing!

So now what?

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