I've gone through my fair share of therapy (I probably went through your share as well). It's always been pretty clear to me that no matter what we do, we're gonna mess up our kids. Or at least mess up. A lot. When I got pregnant, I jokingly told myself that I'd start a therapy fund for Pascal, instead of a college fund. Said it as a joke but then it became real. And to be honest, it's really saved my parenting. There's a lot of leeway in your parenting mistakes if you're gonna be accountable for them later. And I figure...he may not choose to go to college. But I'm pretty sure he's gonna be able to use the therapy fund.
Especially after yesterday.
Okay. So. We do Santa. I know many don't but we do. Though I'm not particularly religious, we do take part in the secular, retail holiday around winter solstice, known to most as Christmas.
And since Pascal is 7 and a half, the question, "Is Santa real?" has come up more than once. He's heard various things from other kids and the logistics of a big, fat man traveling the globe in one night are starting to loom heavy in his analytical brain.
Thus far, I've managed to dodge the question with talk of Santa Energy and the Spirit of Giving. I'd also sworn to myself that the day he asked me outright for the truth would be the day I'd tell him just that.
So. Yesterday. Driving home from a hike, he asks flat out, "Is Santa real? Tell me the truth."
"That's a big question buddy. Do you want the big answer?"
"Yes. I want the answer. THE TRUTH. Are you Santa?"
I nod yes, watching him the rearview mirror.
"Yes, buddy...I'm Santa."
A million questions later.
"How about the tooth fairy?"
"What do you think?"
"I think she's real."
"No. That's you too. So, do you have my teeth?"
"Yes. I saved them."
A thousand I love yous and more talk of spirit follow.
And then he breaks down. I mean DOWN. He's inconsolable for 2 hours and actually says things like,
"All the magic of life is gone. You've taken away the one person I loved and believed in."
I mean, he was WRECKED.
How was I 'sposed to know the colossal ramifications of this truth? To be fair, the kid LOVES funerals and dead bodies. He loves his very graphic birth pictures. He's gotten some serious stuff under his belt without blinking an eye.
Well. Shit on a shingle.
How do I get this genie back in the freaking bottle?
Quick thinking (with the therapy fund in mind), I do the only thing I can think of. I lie. To cover up the truth. About the original lie. "Oh. Buddy. I was totally teasing you. I'm sorry. I thought I was being funny." (I'd rather have him pissed at me than think there's no magic to life at the tender age of 7).
That's right. I did backies. Total and complete backies on the Santa-is-real/fake-gig.
I know. Who does that?
Me. Mother of the Freaking Year. That's who.
"Mom. That's terrible to tease a kid like that."
"Yes. And I'm sorry."
And just like that, he stops crying. Settles. I mean, his soul settles. Makes me pinky swear that Santa is real (therapy fund, therapy fund, therapy fund). Asks me if I really saved his teeth. "I don't even PULL your teeth. Why would I save them?"
Ay yi yi. I have NO idea if what I did was right. In fact, I'm pretty sure I have NO idea what pile of crap I backed myself into. I didn't have time to consult with my best mama friends or to think about long term consequences. I was on the spot and I did my best. I could tell (too late) that he really just wasn't ready for this information. And it's worth the lie and the future ramifications to give him back his magic. And when I took it back, he was soooo willing to have the truth veiled over again. It just wasn't his time to learn to The Truth.
My mom made the great statement: When kids ask for the truth, they're really just looking for confirmation of THEIR truth. Not The Real Truth. I'm keeping THAT in my back pocket for a while.
I'm not fooling myself that the genie is really, fully back in the bottle. It's going to be on his mind now and he'll be looking for all sorts of signs for both truths. I've no doubt he'll start to connect the dots in his own way, on his own terms.
But damn. I'm so super glad about the therapy fund. Jeesh. I totally didn't see that going down like that.
Parenting. It's like the Temple of Doom. There's always a booby trap lurking.
(and if you don't do Santa...you don't have to gloat about never starting with the lie to begin with. I get you. It's all good.)