I was raised Jewish, so the only real holiday-related lies I was told were about giant arks and burning bushes. There were no Hanukkah characters like Bernie the Gift Guy who magically came to our house, or Yom Kippur elves to help us atone. The closest thing we had, or have, is Elijah… And all he does is come in for a minute during Passover and have a few sips of wine. He doesn’t leave presents. Hell, he doesn’t even close the freaking door behind him when he leaves!!
So now I have a son and we celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, and sure Hanukkah is great. But Christmas is FANTASTIC! Christmas also has all these little white lies tied to it. With those white lies come a barrel-full of holiday magic that I never got to experience. But it also brings its own brand of horrible guilt about lying to my kid.
Sure, we’ve been telling him about Santa since his first Christmas. Santa comes down the chimney, he leaves gifts, we leave him milk and cookies. He even comes to the mall to find out what we want, PERSONALLY, because he cares so much. Whenever we’re somewhere Santa happens to be, G will ask if it’s the real Santa. I always say the same thing: It might be. It also might be someone Santa hired to be Santa because Santa can’t be everywhere at the same time. But every Santa that Santa hires has Santa’s ear and will tell him exactly what you tell him to tell him. (Say that 10 times fast!)
Last night my friend was telling me stories about when she and her friends were around seven or eight and found out there was no Santa, and how truly sad they were. I never really thought about how devastating it will be to him one day to find out this is all bunk. But do I want to rob him of the Christmas Magic of the Present, just to save him from the Christmas Pain of the Future? I mean, everyone makes it through okay, right? I don’t know because I NEVER HAD IT TO BEGIN WITH! (Christmas magic, that is. Are you following?)
Today my dear friend brought us The Elf on the Shelf. From what I understand, this is a rather new tradition and it’s one I only heard of last year. I was SO EXCITED we were getting to experience it! To sum it up, the Elf comes to your house sometime around Thanksgiving. He watches you all day, waits for you to sleep, then flies to the North Pole to have some mulled wine with his elf buddies and tell Santa how you’re doing. Then he flies back in time for you to wake up, and he’s never in the same spot twice. When you get up in the morning, you must find your Elf and start your day. You are not permitted to touch your Elf, and your Elf is not permitted to speak to you. But you may share with your Elf all of your secrets and wishes, and he will tell Santa anything you want him to know… As well as anything you did well or completely screwed up during your day. Your Elf flies back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve and doesn’t return until the next holiday season.
When my friend was reading the book that comes with the Elf to G, I ran to his room to put the elf atop G’s shelf. The book ended, and we started to look for him. When he was found moments later, we followed the first rule and named him. G called him Zizzy, initially, then changed it immediately to Bicky Zizzy Itchy. He likes formal names. He then excitedly began to tell Bicky everything about everything and ask question after question, which remained unanswered.
As the evening wore on, G mentioned Bicky frequently. When his friends came for dinner, he introduced them to Bicky and found out all about their elf, Elvy. When his friends left and G was about to brush his teeth he said, “Mom, please don’t joke now. Did you put Bicky on my shelf?” I paused for a brief moment, every ounce of Jew in me wanting to scream, “YES! YES, OF COURSE I DID! But even though we know the truth, Garrett, we can still pretend that Bicky is real and we can still tell him our secrets, okay?” But instead I said, “I didn’t, buddy! I’m telling you, I think that book is magic!”
And then I instantly felt sickening guilt.
I’m just the worst liar ever. I hate the way it makes me feel.
But why did I make that choice? Is it peer pressure? Or did I know that if I told him I had put Bicky there, he would instantly be a little less kid and a little more cynic? Is it because I want his childhood to last a little longer?
I think one of the reasons is that I want him to have the kind of magical, mystical holiday I never had as a kid. And I want him to believe in, I don’t know… Fun stuff? But I’m truly terrified to my core that when he finds out the truth, and puts together that we lied to him… I’m terrified a part of him will stop trusting me. Because I never lie to him about anything else. Ever.
When we went to his room so he could get in bed, we read the book again. G told Bicky how happy he was to have him and that he was really, really going to miss him come Christmas Eve. He asked me if Bicky would always be his Elf, even when he was a grown up. And I told him he would be. That wasn’t a lie, at least.
There is a lot about Christmas that plays on, even takes advantage of, the innocence of a child. And I know we do it to see the looks on their faces, and because there’s so much less magic when you get older, and lose your innocence. I’ve seen the look on G’s face on Christmas morning when there were presents in the living room that weren’t there when he went to sleep. I love that look. I love all that is heart is willing to take in. I just don’t want to crush it in a few years.
So, tell me. Are we doing the right thing, letting them believe in all this stuff? Are we actually FORCING them to believe in all this stuff?? I want G’s Christmases to be spectacular. I want him to remember them as warm, and filled with family and friends, and I want him to learn how to be generous and giving, and that the holidays are about…. Well, magic. And I don’t want him to be the only one of his friends to not have that gift. I just wish so much that we could give it all to him without the lies, big or small. And I even think we could. It would just be a different kind of magic.
I’m at a bit of a loss here. And it’ll take a Christmas miracle to sort this all out in my head.
I think I’ll ask Bicky to ask Santa for me. I hope he hasn’t already flown off for the night.