Yes, Maggie, there is a Santa Claus, an Easter Bunny and a Tooth Fairy.
My daughter, Maggie, stopped believing in Santa Claus when she was 8 years old. I knew she had become a “nonbeliever,” but she wouldn’t admit to it. I suspect she was concerned the disclosure might result in less-than-astounding gifts, such as packages of underwear or math workbooks.
What partly clinched the deal was the presence of Santa everywhere. We spotted him serving pizza at Little Caesar’s, at countless malls, in front of a tire store and at pretty much every conceivable public place. I tried to use the old “Those are stand-ins since the real Santa is busy at the North Pole getting ready for Christmas Eve” line. She didn’t seem skeptical.
In Maggie’s mind, Santa’s fate was sealed when we rode on the popular Polar Express train ride through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
At one point in the journey, the train pulls into the station in Peninsula, and children are encouraged to look out the windows at the “North Pole,” a decorated area populated with elves and, of course, a waving Santa. Glowing behind Santa was the neon sign for The Winking Lizard bar and restaurant. Maggie and I had eaten there many times. Maggie peered out the window and said, “There’s a Winking Lizard in the North Pole?”
And that was it. The truth was out in the open — with the stipulation she didn’t spill the beans for true believers.
Honestly, I was somewhat relieved. I hate to admit this, but her new knowledge helped me as a parent. The pressure for the appearance of perfect gifts under the tree was gone. Maggie knew we lived on a strict budget, and a legendary man wasn’t the source of her Christmas loot. It was her mom. Some of her friends’ parents were overextending themselves financially to prolong the sweet innocence and wonder in their children.
I had done the same in Christmases past and was secretly glad I had an excuse to stop the
My initial relief, after some reflection, turned into wistful chagrin. My baby girl didn’t believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. (This last creature disappeared early, due to the fact Maggie could not wrap her mind around the concept of a giant rabbit breaking into our house and leaving a basket).
Some of my lovely holiday moments disappeared with her lack of belief, and with each holiday since, I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness.
I sometimes forget the dualistic nature of Maggie’s preteen life. Sometimes she seems like a little girl, sometimes more like a teenager. I never know when or why the transitions occur. She is constantly in flux, which was proven by what I recently discovered in her bedroom.
Page 2 of 2 - Maggie lost a tooth during an overnight stay at her friend’s house. She brought it home the next day in a Ziploc bag and showed it to me, and I never thought of it again. A week later, when I was changing her bed sheets, I found the bag underneath her pillow. I sat down on the bed, clutching the bag and crying. Some part of my daughter still wanted the magic to be true. I, however, had dropped the ball thinking she had moved on. When I asked her about it that night, she said it was “no big deal. I don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy, anyways.” But, I could see the disappointment in her face.
I realized after the Tooth Fairy debacle the wonder and innocence of our children are never actually gone. Maybe it’s just hidden underneath layers of their supposed “coolness,” the trappings of reality or even our lack of faith in the mystical and magical. I think we as parents need to protect our children from skepticism, as often as possible. And, if we’re smart, we’ll keep looking for the presence of the miraculous, profound and astonishing things in our world-even under our preteen children’s pillows.