And finally, I told her, “So that’s the truth; about all of them. Now you know.”
After Christmas last year I had decided, for my own reasons, my 9 year old needed to know the truth about Santa Claus. Maybe as misguided as my reasoning was, I thought it was time she learned the truth about Santa and his brethren of mythological icons.
In my mind, the conversation would be easy to begin and subsequently get through (As easy as I thought Physical Geology 101 as a senior in college was going to be. Needless to say I was wrong…about both). I had found myself hesitating and blaming it on patience for the right moment to tell Hannah. I thought better of telling her before bed, holding a sign at the school bus stop was out, blurting it out after she passed the mashed potatoes at dinner didn’t seem like the best time either.
So I waited. As I waited, I planned my strategy out further. I was like the kid playing Dungeons and Dragons, who always took longer than he needed to figure out what to do with his Mana points. Each time I took a step towards telling her, I backed up and thought about it a little more. So I rehearsed my speech. Tweaked it, edited it for time and for bad jokes, and said it out loud multiple times. One version had me wearing a leather trench coat and handing her a red pill and a blue pill. Another version I was going to set up a row of cups and chalices and telling her to choose one. And yet another version, I had her watching the Matrix and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade so she could pick up on my references.
Maybe it was me, but I started to rethink this position of her needing to know. Maybe I was being selfish as I slammed the door shut on a very big piece of her childhood? Who was I to tear down the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus from Idols to Taylor Hicks? Did Hannah really need to know?
So I pushed it out further and further. I resigned myself to be happy knowing by the time she got to junior high she wouldn’t believe anymore (it worked for potty training and elementary school so I was willing to give it shot). After a while, I understood it was me. My hesitation for the past 3 months came down to one thing, I wanted her to stay my baby…and I’m an idiot for wanting to tell her (ok, two reasons). I wanted her to be that little girl whose eyes told me she believed in Easter Bunnies, Tooth Fairies, Santa Clauses, and the magic her Dad can wield.
It was about me overcompensating because I was scared to lose another piece of my daughter’s childhood. A childhood she is rapidly growing out of. So I thought I would tackle it head on, like a man. Ignore my feelings and grab it by the reigns and control the situation (or in other words, act like an imbecile).
My manly control of the situation came to a crashing halt this past Saturday afternoon while I was at work (big surprise) with one question from an inquisitive 9 year old.
“Mommy. There really isn’t an Easter Bunny is there?”
“No.” My wife used Hannah’s question to let her behind the curtain.
She explained to Hannah the intricacies of our reasoning to keep all of this from her. It didn’t end with the Easter Bunny either. Hurtling to the ground came the Tooth Fairy (although to be fair, according to Hannah, “I knew that Mommy because Daddy told me about her in his joking voice, not his serious voice”) and toppling lastly and loudest, Santa Claus. All toppled unceremoniously and without any sort of eulogy befitting their memory. Just the simple truth which allowed for another chapter in my daughter’s childhood to close. A chapter that held a good deal of significance for her but I suspect not quite as much as it did for me and her mom.
As my wife relayed the accounts of the afternoon to me, she told me Hannah took it well. There was a brief moment of sadness and teary eyes but nothing that lasted or affected her past the moment.
I was at work when all of this happened so when I got home I pulled her to the side so her younger sister couldn’t hear (We’re still all about lying to her). I reassured her, told her the same reasons her mom told her for doing what we did, told her I loved her, and gave her a hug. And finally, I told her, “So that’s the truth; about all of them. Now you know.” As I said it, I got a little sad because I saw her grow up in front of my eyes.
And her response?
“Yup. Can I go play now?” It obviously had affected my daughter more than I thought…or maybe that was just me?