On Losing Santa Claus

For my wife and me, the day Nelson Mandela died is the day Santa Claus ceased to exist for our first grader, and the day we learned that our infant daughter had not outgrown her (treatable) heart condition. These things are all separate occurrences grouped together, because, as humans, we like to group and categorize. Some people believe that things happen in threes, notably celebrity deaths, but my son’s belief in Santa and my daughter’s health aren’t on equal footing with the death of Nelson Mandela.

For my son, the end of Santa marked the end of a difficult day. Some kids were mean at school and on the bus, and his mother and I had to take his baby sister to the pediatrician where it was discovered that her (again treatable) heart condition had not gone away like was originally thought three weeks ago.

It was just recently that he no longer believed in the Tooth Fairy. Then it was the Easter Bunny. And yesterday, he kept asking whether Santa Claus is real. “What do you think?” I asked in reply. And he kept hounding me, and his sister’s diaper was full, and he kept hounding, “Tell me the truth, I want the truth. Is Santa real?” and I kept replying, “What do you think?” “Well, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny aren’t real, so…” “What do you think?” I asked. “Santa isn’t real…”

I couldn’t lie to him. I want him to be skeptical, to question the reality that others expound as truth. Where he was gleeful to know about the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny, he was devastated by Santa. Perhaps we should give him something to really believe in and tell him about Nelson Mandela.

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