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“Ho! Ho! Ho!” We thought Santa’s visit at the neighborhood holiday party would be fun for our two-year-old daughter, Abby. To our surprise, she was not enchanted … She was terrified. She crawled under the table, curled into a ball, and cringed in fear. Santa reached under the table and merrily urged her out of her refuge, but she just screamed, “No! No! No!” at the top of her lungs, bringing the whole party to a halt. While she liked stories of Santa, reindeer, presents, and magic, she never really liked Santa in “real person.” Over time her phobia diminished, and we thought she’d outgrown it.
But we were wrong. When Abby was 5, she had become the big sister to two-year-old Eleanor and newborn Jackson. Although my husband and I were exhausted and sleep-deprived, we embraced Christmas Eve with all its enchantment and mystery, reading The Night Before Christmas and explaining that “Santa won’t come until all the kids are asleep.”
Every 20 minutes for the next four hours, Abby would appear at our bedside, saying that she couldn’t fall asleep. We’d repeat, “Santa won’t come until you’re asleep,” and take her back to bed. Finally at 2:00 am, I woke again to Abby standing at my bedside with tears rolling down her face, “Mom, I can’t fall asleep knowing that some strange man is coming into our house.”
Wow! I shook off my post-partum fatigue and nudged my husband awake. Snuggling Abby in our bed, we instinctively knew it was time to bust the “Santa Myth” with her. While sharing the truth, we also told her she was learning it at a much younger age than other kids … she had a responsibility to keep the secret so that her siblings and friends could enjoy the fantasy. Abby lived up to that promise. Her siblings learned the truth about Santa in their own ways, at their own times.
Don’t let reality and fear get in the way of the magic,
Because there is magic in every wish, fantasy, and memory.
Truth and honesty possess their own magic,
But keeping secrets can enable other people’s happiness.