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To My Daughter On The First Christmas She Doesn't Believe In Santa

I thought I'd be sad when we talked about presents and you knew they'd all be bought by me. But that isn't what has happened.
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You sang last night in your first holiday show. You belted out the words you practiced, and performed all of the carefully planned hand motions at just the right moment. You stood with your friends and before you started, you all held hands. As you started to sing, your joy was palpable, your grins wide. And that first grade joy? It spread to all of the adults sitting around me.

That's what this season is about. Spreading your joy.

I thought it would be hard when you no longer had the innocent happiness and excitement that Santa brings to kids during the holidays. I thought I'd mourn the passing of your complete trust in me, in your ability to buy into the idea of the impossible. I thought I'd be sad when we talked about presents and you knew they'd all be bought by me.

But that isn't what has happened.

Last year, as you started to put the pieces together, as you asked repeatedly why some people didn't believe in Santa Claus, I told you I wasn't sure exactly, but that I was pretty sure most people believed in all that he stands for. I told you I was pretty sure most people believe in the spreading of kindness, the joy of generosity. They might not believe in Santa, I told you, but they still believe in all the magic that comes from having a good heart.

It took me until I said it to you to realize that I believe that too. And I hoped that you would hold on to all of that even after the myth was no longer your truth.

One Saturday this summer you sat on the living room carpet, your doll from Santa in hand, and asked me to tell you the truth. Was there really a man who brought all these presents? I stalled. I didn't want to answer. But you asked again, implored me to be honest, and so I was.

You were shocked at first. Even though I'm pretty sure you knew the truth already, I don't think you were quite prepared for the answer. And like most things in parenting, I wasn't ready to tell you that truth, either.

I thought Christmas would be different when the grown-ups weren't the only ones in on the secret, but really, it still feels the same so far -- we're still decorating the tree and reading our favorite books and seeing The Nutcracker. We're still spreading joy and learning to be generous and paying attention to the kind things we can go out of our way to do.

But this year, you're part of the magic.

You're helping me spread the joy to your brother, talking to him about Santa and the magic he can do, reading him your favorite Christmas stories before bed, letting him watch Rudolph eight million times.

You're helping your friends continue to believe, telling me how you joined in to the class chant professing love of Santa even when you knew the truth and how you go along with conversations on the playground about Santa and his elves.

You're finding out that there's a lot of work that goes in to the holiday -- that all the preparation and shopping, the list-making and family coordinating doesn't happen at the North Pole, but it happens right here in your living room. Maybe that is making you more grateful. I hope so.

I've realized that my worries (as usual) were for naught. You're still finding the magic that does exist around us, even if you're no longer looking for a bearded man in a red coat.


This post first appeared on Sarah's blog