We joke that our 10-year-old daughter is the Elf of the family — picture Buddy the Elf in a little girl’s body jumping and squealing with delight that “Santa is coming!”
We have a longstanding family rule that we don’t listen to Christmas music or watch Christmas movies until Thanksgiving is over. Our 10-year-old counts down the hours until the Thanksgiving meal is done so we can officially put up Christmas decorations and turn on the themed music! She decorates her room with lights, tinsel, and fluffy fake snow each year. The girl even holds practice for Christmas morning wake-up with her siblings as they peek over our balcony and head down the stairs. She loves this holiday season and wholeheartedly still believed in the magic of Santa Claus coming to town — until the day we told her the truth.
I don’t enjoy the whole Santa charade. However, since my husband is the second Elf of the family and loves Christmas and the Christmas spirit, I follow along and enjoy my children’s innocent wonder of the season as much as I can. I despise lying to my children, though, and do my best to neither confirm nor deny when they ask questions regarding the existence of Santa and flying reindeer. So, when my husband approached me about it being time to tell our ten-year-old the truth about Santa, I was excited to have one less person to feel like I was lying to.
Why, you might ask? Why spoil her fun and wonder-filled childhood Christmas memories? I know some people disagree about telling the truth before kids suspect that Santa Claus isn’t real, but as she is nearing age eleven and heading into middle school, we didn’t want her to get made fun of by her peers. While her innocence and joy-filled belief is adorable to us, we didn’t want it to be a cause for ridicule, and we preferred the truth come from us.
She also kept pestering her dad to join him for Black Friday shopping. What reason could we give her as to why she couldn’t join him, if Santa brings everything under our tree on Christmas morning? We knew she wanted to be a part of the gift giving. And so, the evening of Thanksgiving before the Black Friday thrills, we ushered her into our secret.
I had recently seen a social media post on how a mother told her child about becoming a Santa, and we used a similar approach. We told her that we have noticed her heart growing a lot this year in the way she loves and cares for her siblings. Her face lit up with the genuine praise we gave. Then, we told her the truth — that the Christmas spirit of giving is within all of us, and she would now be part of our Team Santa.
Was she crushed? Well, for about a minute, yes. “Aw, why did you tell me? You ruined Christmas!” she exclaimed at first. But, as we talked more about her new role at Christmastime, how she now gets to be part of our secret Team Santa Mission with the inside scoop on what gifts her siblings are getting, she quickly came around. Now that she has experienced the excitement of shopping with us and picking out toys for her unsuspecting four younger siblings and other family members — she just may be even more full of the Christmas spirit now.
Of course, Christmas is about more than just receiving gifts and putting ornaments on a tree. Becoming a member of Team Santa in our home has taught her the joy of gift-giving and knowing that the person receiving will be filled with delight — partly because of her thoughtfulness. She still has many younger siblings with whom she can play the Elf role and engage in the “magic” just as before. She still enjoys all of our Christmas traditions, like blasting holiday music in our van as we tour the Christmas lights in nearby neighborhoods, but it has a whole new layer of meaning for her now that she’s part of our top-secret mission. She says she loves being involved in the secret with her parents, and I agree, it’s been a fun bonding experience for us all.
Our daughter now has a privilege that her siblings aren’t even aware of. And that brings a different type of magic to her favorite holiday season.