The saddest part of Christmas
Cath Jenkin discusses the fear of saying goodbye to Santa and fairytales.
As my daughter grows up, faster than I can keep up, so she’s begun letting go of some of the mysteries and fairytales that accompanied her through the very little years.

Not so long ago, she bluntly asked me if the Easter bunny was real and, knowing me as well as she does, she saw me gulp back my tea before answering with my usual “well, what do you think?” Catching on to my hesitation as I wavered between telling her the truth or letting the fuzzy hopper of a childhood memory hang out with us for one more year, she said “Mom, I think it’s you”.

Somewhere inside me, my mom-heart cried out, oscillating between not wanting to let go of this little childhood wonder, and finally acknowledging the reality that it is indeed me who scurries around our house the night before, pretending to have a fluffy tail and tall ears. A gentle nod from me was all it took to eliminate the Easter Bunny from our lives forever.

I’d expected tears, to be blunt. But, her gentle maturity took over and, with a twinkle in her eye she said, “I think I’ve always known that”.

Now that school is teaching her to differentiate fact from fiction, and fairytale from reality, I feel like the little sparkles of her early childhood are moving on, to be replaced by the home truths that no, a jolly red man does not ride in on a sleigh and leave you presents under our purple tree on Christmas Eve.

As a child, I clung on to the dream of Father Christmas far longer than other kids. Probably spurned on by being my parents’ last child, they let me believe until I figured it out for myself, at the age of eleven (yes, eleven, really!). It was only when I realised that our neighbourhood’s Father Christmas wore the same glasses as my dad that the truth got knocked home to me. I remember being completely overwhelmed, and wanting to smile for being so clever for figuring it all out.

I want that experience for my daughter too, but as each year rolls by, I see the illusion dissipating, little by little. For years, I’ve told her that I email Santa her wishlist and follow it up with an SMS to check he received it. The other day, she asked me if she could email him directly, as she has her very own email account. Again, I gulped, and then fluffed past the question as I said I’d send her his email address the moment I was back at my computer. But, she saw that gulp, and I think she knew.

Now that the end of the year is rolling closer, and her friends at school are also questioning the illusion of the red-suited fellow, I fear that my time for fluffy fibs about Father Christmas are coming to an end. That little magic I’ve clung on to, so that I can see the dancing joy in her eyes on Christmas morning when she thunders downstairs to spy her gifts under the tree? I think the magic is fading, folks.

It’s all part of growing up, I realise. But this mama is not ready to let go of this little bit of the childhood just yet. I guess it comes back to one of the central parts of parenting that we all hate to admit to – our children grow up, far faster than we’d like, and we’re left breathless, trying to catch up.

Barack Obama, in his recent election campaign, asked for four more years from the American people. All I’m asking Santa for is one more year. Selfish, I realise, but I hope he lets this mama have it.

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