A few days ago, I posted on Facebook: "I am committed to Santa. I am committed to Santa. I am committed to Santa." My sister replied, "Well you should be committed." I took this at first as affirmation of my choice, but later wondered if she meant, No, you should be committed. Like, to an asylum. Because it's making me that crazy.
It all began like it does for most other people: I wanted Christmas to be magical for Joey, and then, for Joey and Noah. But now that they are growing older, and unfortunately more astute, remaining committed to the lie is becoming quite the tangled web.
First of all, there's the issue of the wrapping paper. As a child whose mother tossed gifts in plastic grocery bags with Post-Its toward her later teen years, I can't remember wrapping paper being a big deal. However it was pointed out to me once I had Joey that the wrapping paper used by SANTA can't be like the wrapping paper used for gifts to the rest of the family. The SANTA wrapping paper cannot be visible anywhere in your house, because then it couldn't possibly be from the North Pole.
Flaw in the Lie #1: Other people shop for wrapping paper where I shop. The children are likely to see the SANTA wrapping elsewhere and ask questions.
This year I went so crazy as to choose separate wrappings for each boy, so they could easily tell their gifts apart. This seemed like a convenient and practical idea because it helps me visualize the equality of their growing piles. But, alas, when you are down to that one scrap of Toy Story paper and the only gift that will fit is for the OTHER CHILD, you're kicking yourself. Such a small detail in the lie, but one my boys would surely pick up on. Or would they? I don't know, and can't take the chance because I am committed to the lie.
I mute the TV during Christmas movie scenes meant for grownups. Movie scenes I myself never picked up on as a child (but I really wasn't all that astute), like in A Christmas Story when Ralphie and Randy scramble up to bed and the parents pause dramatically, then say, "Let's get 'em." I ask Joey loud and overt questions when Buddy the Elf is questioning how people could really not believe in Santa. It is that moment when I say, "JOEY, WHAT DID YOU LEARN IN SCHOOL TODAY??" and I am sweating bullets and trembling inside in case he hears Buddy the Elf say, "People think parents give the presents to the children?"
Happy, our Elf on the Shelf, is another source of extreme pain. I have run out of shelves, and I can't perch him too low or anywhere he might fall because, dear me, the magic might be lost. But I cannot give up, because the lie would be ruined and, more importantly, my children would be crushed.
And the worst part of all. Oh, the very, very worst. As I tucked Joey into bed tonight, he whispered excitedly, "I know Santa's watching closely tonight!" and I realized...he's six. This might very well be the last Christmas Eve Eve that he feels this thrilled, this enchanted by Santa Magic. Next year, assuredly there will be questions. In fact there were a few this year. Things he's overheard on the bus or that kids at school with older siblings have planted in his sweet ever-working mind (I seriously wanted to beat up a kid at one point). But nothing yet has been able to crack his thick resistant loyal-to-Santa skin. The skin I have so carefully molded and tended. I felt horrible as I kissed him goodnight, then, realizing that it will not be long before he realizes that his mother has told her a lie. The first he will ever know of, and from then on, he will doubt me. Do I really have Mommy Magic that keeps him safe at night? Is my older brother really the actual Superman (that's a lie spun wildly out of control now, to the point where my brother emphatically says before leaving, "Gotta fly--oops! I mean, go to work!" and my children get red-faced and giggly and whisper, "Don't say it! Don't tell his secret!"), or did Mommy lie about that, too? Worst of all...we'll never have that bond again, I don't believe, where he sees me as the omniscient and omnipotent Mommy, whose word is Law and who will always, always save him.
I know this happens with all children, but Joey is...well, he's Joey. He's My Joey, and I became so sad tonight as I pulled out the Mickey Mouse wrapping paper and the sparkly silver Sharpie marker (because elves label gifts in silver, didn't you know?) and re-committed myself to this lie that is going to end up biting me big time.
But I'm committed. As committed as I was to the lies I told my parents in high school ("I was at Alice's house the WHOLE TIME...."), I am committed to Santa. Because...it IS pretty wonderful, isn't it?