We have had so much delight getting ready for the magic of the festive season this year. When we put up the tree, the little guy danced around the room in between hanging decorations singing ‘this is going to be the happiest Christmas ever!’ He loves every little tiny detail and has been as full of wonder at the lights in the trees on the drive home as at the treats discovered in the advent calendar bags each evening. The moment we turned on the tree lights, he darted across to the main light switch, turned them off and sat in the middle of the rug with a beatific smile on his face, letting out a rapturous sigh.
My heart lifts with the magic of a story that has been told so often that it permeates the fabric of our culture and gives us a wealth references to share with one another. We love a good story at our house and as an erstwhile teacher of literature and drama, it thrills my heart that the wee one needs little encouragement to read a story, begs often for us to tell him the stories of our lives and has recently been making up a raft of his own rather marvellous narratives.
I also love the magic of our reality – the mysteries of the world around us are revealing themselves to scientists daily, in ways that are sometimes more surprising and revealing yet more mysteries than we could have imagined. The world is an amazing place and it is our firm conviction that there is plenty of mystery and magic in the real world without needing to adhere to myths or tales as anything other than good narrative to illustrate rather than explain the world.
This is why Santa, that very jolly fellow who zooms about the skies with his magic reindeer, and spies on the children at preschool through the CCTV cameras, and sends emmisaries to the Christmas Fair to hand out pre-emptive gifts on his behalf, and is apparently able to get into our house even without a chimney as they have the technology these days, will not be coming to our house this year…or any other year. We are those parents.
So, we were prepared to apologise if our little one broke the spell at preschool with his assertions that ‘Santa is not real’, but our feeling is there is enough magic in the world for our boy to retain his sense of wonder AND not lose faith in our explanations of how-the-world-is, based on a sense of disenchantment (fleeting perhaps) when it transpired that we had sold him a story as truth.
However, it seems this year that the apologies are not required – yet anyway. He has been far more willing to accept the stories about Santa from outwith the home than our assertions that Santa is not real. We have put Santa in the same camp as monsters, fairies, ghosts, baby Jesus, angels, ogres et al – all part of the mythical story repertoire that we cherish. But I think for now this has just served to further confuse him and remind me that his little world is still expanding daily and he is so willing to believe anything – another compelling reason to maintain an honest line with him.
My only moment of pause was when he assured me that he would be very sad if Santa did not come to our house on Christmas. Lots of things make our children sad. We cannot shield them from all disappointment, we need to help them learn adult tools for absorping the disappointment and finding a happy equilibrium in spite of the reality check. We will hug him if he is sad, remind him of how wonderfully fortunate he is in our lovely – real – magical world and help him to gain perspective while hopefully continuing to foster his delightful sense of wonder.