Blake is teetering on the fulcrum of awareness. There is a fine line between keeping Christmas Magic alive and lying to your kids about an old fat man breaking into your house and leaving gifts.
It is taking a lot of smoke and mirrors to keep Christmas magic alive at our house this year.
I have a 4-year-old from Ethiopia who is used to enjoying a freshly butchered sheep for a Christmas feast and an almost-8-year-old who is starting to connect the dots that this whole Santa thing doesn’t quite add up.
Blake is teetering on the fulcrum of awareness.
There is a fine line between keeping Christmas magic alive and lying to your kids about an old fat man breaking into your house and leaving gifts. I know Dawit understands that Santa has a list and checks it twice. He knows that he better be on the “nice” list if he is going to get the scooter –– or “schoolah,” as he calls it –– under the tree Christmas morning.
(Spoiler alert: We already bought a Thomas the Tank Engine Scooter. Dawit will freak out when he sees it. The jolly old elf will get all the credit.)
I know he gets it because when his brother does anything that bothers him, Dawit threatens Blake “schoolah, no!” indicating that Santa won’t bring Blake a scooter if he doesn’t clean up his act.
Another place that Blake’s cynic gene –– yes, I know where he got it –– becomes apparent is with the Elf on the Shelf. That elf is the bane of my existence. Blake has loved it the past couple of years. Each night, the little fella runs to the North Pole, tells Santa how Blake has been today and comes back, landing in a different spot each day. Now, he is questioning the elf.
He leaves notes for the elf to answer. My wife works really hard to write in super tiny elf writing to keep Blake believing. But when the elf told Blake his favorite kind of cookie was oatmeal or chocolate chip, my son turned to me and said, “Mom answered this, didn’t she?”
Not wanting to lie but wanting to avoid giving away the secret, I asked, “Why would you say that? Mom doesn’t write like that.”
“Oatmeal or chocolate chip? Those are me and mom’s favorites,” he reasoned.
I told him that just because the elf and his mother share favorite cookies doesn’t mean the elf didn’t write it. I didn’t lie but, once again, I was on the outskirts of the truth, trying to keep this fun holiday tradition alive.
Then Blake asked Santa to send an additional elf back to watch over Dawit. Apparently, Dawit is so “naughty” he needs his own elf to monitor his naughty/nice list activities. So Santa sent another elf.
Why my wife had extra elves lying around, I’ll never know. But Blake still didn’t seem convinced. So the next morning at about 5:30, when I was heading to work, I wrapped the tree in toilet paper and put both elves near the mess. Blake knows for a fact his mother cleans up messes. She does not make them. So the elves have street cred again.
Santa will hold onto his “realness” more easily because the elves are little North Pole snitches. Santa brings toys. He will believe in Santa because Blake wants him to be real.
These traditions and the truth we bend to keep them alive one more year or maybe two give me some concerns: When it comes to true faith in God, do these cute little lies hurt my credibility with the boys? I don’t want them to equate Jonah and the Whale, Noah and the Ark and Moses and the Red Sea with the Elf on the Shelf or Santa and the Eight Tiny Reindeer.
I know I believed in Santa for a while and it didn’t affect me that way. I was even able to trick or treat on Halloween without becoming a Satanist.
I just hope my boys know the difference between a lie and a fun tradition; between miracles and holiday magic; and between faith and fantasy.
But for now, I just hope these little things we do make them smile and make Christmas even more special.
Kent Bush is the Augusta (Kan.) Gazette publisher, a columnist and blogger for the GateHouse Media Network. He can be contacted at email@example.com.