Christmas 2016 turned out to be the last year that Santa was alive and well in this household ... although that was fading fast and had been for the past couple of years. He made a last-ditch effort, but it didn't work. The gig is up. So long, Santa.
Lucas has been questioning the realness of Santa for a few years, but I've somehow been able to avoid giving him a direct answer.
He knew, early on, there was no Easter Bunny. We didn't hype it up that much anyway, so when he asked if the Easter Bunny was real I asked him, "What do you think? Do you think there is a giant Easter Bunny that hops around on Easter delivering baskets to kids all over?" He laughed and said, "No, I don't think there is an Easter Bunny who can do that."
Somehow that didn't quite transfer over to a non-belief of one jolly old man in a red suit flying around on a sleigh with reindeer delivering gifts to kids all over; but I think it probably planted the seed.
Next up on the list was the tooth fairy. We went round and round on discussions about that - but he still had lots of teeth left to lose and I wasn't ready to give up the fun of finding a dollar under your pillow from the tooth fairy - so I held out on a straight forward answer to that one, too. Eventually he wore me down and I came out to him as the tooth fairy. But not before he wrapped his tooth up in a tissue with a heavy bolt and concocted some kind of device where it was all tied up around his finger so he would feel the pull and wake up and catch the tooth fairy - or me - in the act. It didn't work as I'm a parent and was able to stealthily untie and unwind the trap and switch out the tooth for the money.
We never did the Elf on a Shelf, so I didn't have to worry about that. Although in Kindergarten he did ask why we didn't have one that visited our house.
He started questioning about Santa a few years ago when we were at 3 events in one day where Santa was present. He questioned the subtle differences in the costume - all black belt vs black and gold belt etc. We told him that the Santas he sees out and about at events and parties aren't the 'real' Santa, but helpers. He bought that, but it was a little sad that there wouldn't be any more child-like wonder in his eyes at sitting on Santa's lap.
He kept coming up with ideas on how he was going to figure out if Santa was real ...staying up all night long, (I remember my own determination in attempting to do that one year as I sat watching out my bedroom window until I eventually fell asleep), not telling us everything that was on the list he wrote to Santa, noticing the wrapping paper in the closet was the same as the one Santa used last year (oops!).
Last year after he read the note Santa left thanking them for the cookies he ran upstairs with the note to compare it to a note I had written him. He came back downstairs saying, "Ok, but I'm still not all the way convinced."
This year someone had given him reindeer food and he had some idea about how he was going to sprinkle it on the lawn and be able to tell if they had eaten any of it. He also said he wasn't sure he wanted to leave any cookies out because if there wasn't a Santa that meant "you and dad get to eat all the cookies!"
Several times leading up to Christmas he wanted to know if Santa was real, but I wanted one more Christmas to play along ... and I think as much as he wanted to know, he also wanted to play along and believe for one more year, too. I've read him the "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus" letter (and we have the animated DVD of this), I've told him about the spirit of Christmas and the joy of giving etc ... but I know that wasn't what he was asking about. He wanted to know specifically about the myth of the man flying around in a sleigh with reindeer.
I said, "If you believe you'll receive." He said, "I've heard that saying before."
So why don't you believe? Lucas, "I don't want to believe in something if it's not true."
I asked him why he couldn't just believe on faith, why question it? His answer blew me away. He thinks too much!
"I'm afraid if I believe there is a Santa, and there really isn't a Santa, when I'm adult and have kids, my kids won't get anything."
Me, "What in the world are you talking about?"
Him, "When I'm an adult what if I believe there is a Santa, but there really isn't, but I believe there is, but because there isn't my kids won't get any gifts?"
Me, "I don't fully understand - your gifts don't all come from Santa, they come from your parents, your sister, your grandparents."
Him, "Yeah, but what if I believe there is a Santa so I don't go buy any gifts that are "from Santa" for my kids, because I think Santa is real, but what if he's not? Then my kids won't get any gifts that are 'from Santa' because I didn't go buy the gifts."
Oh. My. Word. I can't keep up with the pace of his analytical brain. Seriously, what 8 year old thinks about their adult self as a father and worried about not keeping up the ruse of Santa for their own kids because they still believe in Santa?!
I think he wanted to know, but I also think this was one of those times where you shouldn't ask the question if you don't want the answer. I didn't want to spoil it right before Christmas. He also kept saying he had some ideas on how he was going to find out if Santa was real, and I didn't want to interfere with his plans.
So Christmas morning came and after the excitement died down Lucas said he didn't think Santa was real. His reasoning?
- The gifts that were from "Santa" have "Made in China" on them
- The metal detector from "Santa" is the exact same one he had saved on the computer
I still laughed it off and wouldn't cop to it. But a little while later as I was sitting next to him as he played with kinetic sand, he asked, in a quiet and serious voice, "So is Santa real?"
I grabbed my laptop and pulled up a website on St Nicholas and read him his story and how that led to the various Santa figures throughout the world. And I finally said those words, "So no, there really isn't one person who flies around the world on a sleigh delivering gifts."
I asked him how he felt, and if he was ok with there not really being a Santa.
"Yeah, because I thought there was something fishy about it anyway."