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Question of the Week - Do You Believe in Magic

This is the first year that the Pumpkin really has any idea who Santa is. I wasn't sure I would play along with the whole Santa thing, but it just kind of happened.

The first year we had the Pumpkin, I had this big conversation with Londo about how I didn't think I'd want to do the "Santa thing." I felt like it was actively lying to our children to pretend that Santa really came to our house, left presents and ate cookies. Londo pointed out that it was a tradition in both our families and that he wanted to have presents from Santa for our kids.

At the time, the Pumpkin was still little, and I figured she'd never know. So I let it go, and we had presents from Santa. I justified it and the books about Santa in my mind as just stories, the way Frosty the Snowman is a story. It was just a passive omission that those characters weren't real.

But this year... Well, this year she knew who Santa was. This year was the deciding year for whether or not we played along with what I've decided to call "The Santa Game." And this year, as happens with many things in our lives, Londo and I flipped positions. Maybe we didn't change positions--it could be that I didn't fully understand his position, but I definitely flipped mine.

I knew that the bike she was getting and the ride-on excavator that the Pookie was getting were the Santa gifts--the big presents of the year that we write from Santa, as my parents did for me and my siblings into our adulthood. And I don't know, I just decided to go for it. Not realizing fully where Londo stood on the issue, I started talking to the Pumpkin about Santa and asking what she wanted him to bring her. We saw lots of Santa stories on her shows (she especially loved the Dora Christmas special, of course). I also started saying that we'd set out stocking and such for Santa.

In talking with the almost 4 year old, I made that step from passive omission to active deception. Apparently Londo was of the mindset this year that he didn't mind giving presents from Santa, but he didn't feel right about actively lying to the kids.

Whoops.

(The bigger issue that Londo has with the whole being good for Santa is the same one I do, which is we don't want to use Santa as a bribe/threat to get the kids to be good or they don't get their presents. First of all, it'd be an empty threat from us, because we are going to give them the gifts. Second, that's not the way we discipline, so it wouldn't be comfortable for us. Even before he said that to me, I'd already been careful about not making The Santa Game about bribes or threats. Instead, we've been talking about the importance of being nice and good to each other, especially around the holidays when people are doing nice things for us like getting us presents, baking with us and spending time with us.)

But the damage was done. I had started the ball rolling, and it wasn't going to stop. So Christmas Eve, the Pumpkin and I set out cookies and apple juice (cause he gets milk everywhere else) for Santa and an apple and bowl of water (her idea!) for the reindeer. We set out stockings and we talked about Santa coming that night. She was excited, and I have to admit how much joy I got out of doing those things. Those are the games of childhood, putting out treats for pretend people and animals, thinking about Santa coming with a big bag of gifts for all the kids, getting excited about stocking stuffers and big presents. And being the one to eat the cookies and set out a bike with a bow on it "from Santa"? It was neat to be the adult on that side of the ritual as well.

And so, here we are. We are doing The Santa Game at least on some level. We won't be super careful about hiding it from her, because Londo wants her to be able to figure it out and not feel like we tricked her. And her face and the Pookie's face when they saw the big presents from Santa and got to open their stockings and when she saw the cookies were gone and the apple had bites out of it? It was awesome!

So this week's Question of the Week is:

In what ways have you incorporated magic into your kids' lives?

Londo and I have yet to talk about The Tooth Fairy. Right now, she's just starting to understand pretend versus real, and I did agree with her when she said that Tinkerbell and fairies are pretend and I did tell her that ghosts aren't real. But I didn't enlighten her to the reality about mermaids, though, even when there was an opportunity. If she asks, I don't think I'll lie. But she didn't ask.

What about you? Do you have a Binky Fairy (I know @Cloud does!)? Do you do Santa? Any ghosts or goblins around for Halloween? Will there be leprechauns for St. Patrick's Day? Unicorns or wizards? What kind of magic exists in your house?

Comments

Becoming Mommy said…
We do have magic in our house. Sasha's dolls and stuffies have secret lives. Santa Lives (we even went to his house in North Pole, CO)! Animals speak. And yes, fairy tales are real.

I don't think it's lying so much as allowing kids to have the freedom to imagine to the fullest extent possible. Reality will hit later. I remember being upset when I found out all these things weren't real, but more like grief that a whole world died. Not that anyone lied to me.
I want that universe to exist for him...at least for a while.
paola said…
We are not very magical here, but we do do the whole Santa thing. I too was adamant that I wouldn't 'lie' to my kids about Christmas, but, you know, it kind of snowballs from year to year, and it isn't only me who partakes in the Santa fantasy. Schools, relatives, tv. It is everywhere, and frankly they do get such a darn kick out of it that it is so hard to not play along.

Noah (6 in 3 weeks) just lost his first tooth and of course the Tootht Fairly paid a vist. And, to see the panic on the boy's face when his tooth popped out on to the kitchen floor, you just want to cheer them up with a bit of fantasy there too.

Truthfully, my childhood wouldn't have been the same without all the fantasy that came with Christmas, the tooth fairy and to a lesser extent the Easter Bunny. Gradually, each year, you beleived in it less until those characters didn't exist any more, but what would those special holidays/events mean to you if they weren't wrapped up in all that fantasy and magic.
Charisse said…
We have Santa and the tooth fairy, and lesserly the Easter Bunny - it's fun and charming and I remember it fondly from my own childhood. But I also remember the thrill of figuring it out and being "in on the joke" and pretending, so I'm not going to any extraordinary lengths to preserve the myth.

I've always told Mouse (when she asked) that Santa gets your parents to help him out, is real for anyone who believes, etc...and I've had her in the bank with me when I was getting golden dollars for the tooth fairy to use. She likes to write a letter to Santa, and we have a ritual of setting out cookies and whiskey for Santa (he likes the good stuff, thanks) and carrots for the reindeer. This year she noticed that Santa used the same wrapping paper as mommy and daddy. I saw wheels turning, which was adorable. She's been asking questions about who pays for the things Santa brings ("but Mommy if I ask Santa for another American Girl doll next year you don't have to pay for it")...I figure her genuine belief will very likely be over next xmas, but we can continue playing it with a nod and a wink for as long as we all want. Which is kind of the grown-up perspective on magic, right - it's at least as much fun to be tricked when you know it's trickery.

I have a couple friends who used the Portable North Pole to send their kids a really realistic video message from Santa (with uploaded photos and everything) and tracked him on NORAD and stuff, specifically with the goal of maintaining belief that was starting to slip. But I feel like that's the kind of active deception that really could make a kid mad later. I'd rather leave plenty of clues that a kid who is ready to move into a more grown-up perspective on magic can find when she's ready.
paola said…
@charisse

My kids have also noticed that Santa's pressies are wrapped with the wrapping papaer I bought. And last year Noah saw the original box that Zoe's dolls house was in in the rubbish. I told them well Santa can't bring everyone's present already wrapped, especially the big ones!! Daddy woke up extra early to assemble and wrap the presents. They accept that for now.

Also, we told them that the presents Santa brings we have to pay for because Noah worked out that it would be expensive for Santa to pay for everyone's presents.

I figure we only have another year or so of Christmas fantsy left here too.
mom2boy said…
We talked a little bit about Santa but he's just not into him. Pretend, yes. Super heros rule the house but Santa and snow (a foreign concept in itself) just didn't seem to catch hold. He had his picture taken with "Santa" but didn't ask many questions about him or seem all that interested in talking about it. Part of my hesitation was the conversation about how it would be okay for this Santa fellow to be sneaking in our house when we are sleeping. We deal with bad guys and monsters so much during play time, I really didn't want to be putting those fears out (bad guys might come in, Santa did) for many nights after the fact.
Cloud said…
We have Santa and the Binky Fairy. So far, we haven't really done the Easter Bunny, and I hadn't even thought about the Tooth Fairy yet! We don't play up the "be good or Santa won't come" aspect at all, though.

The other "magic" we have is the birdie- he brings a treat to little kids who take their nap or have quiet time in their rooms. He's actually a family tradition. My Mom used him, and her Mom (who had 7 kids!) used him. I don't know about before that.

Fairies and all that haven't really come up since she finds any movie with a plot too scary.

I've written about this before, but I think the magic is a useful way to get cooperation from kids on important things that they can't really understand yet, like giving up a binky that is causing a rash on your mouth, or taking a nap so that you won't get overtired have nightmares during the night. Santa is just fun, though!
Charisse said…
Just thought I'd update: last night at dinner (and teetering on the brink of losing her 4th tooth), Mouse asked us point blank "is the tooth fairy really you guys?". We said yes. And playing it by ear, we said it's a secret though, for kids who are big enough to figure it out for themselves. And she only comes if we all play the game. Mouse seemed pleased with herself and happy with the new rules, which included "only tell your friends if they seem to have figured it out". I'm guessing the Santa realization will not be far behind.
caramama said…
@Charisse - I think that's a perfect explanation. And nice to hear that she wasn't upset about finding out. I'd also guess that the Santa realization will be soon.

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