A letter to my 11-year-old on the occasion of learning the truth about Santa Claus.

Dear son,

I knew something was wrong when, bored, annoyed, and visibly upset, you stomped away from the long department-store line we were standing in for Santa pictures.

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I'll cop to a shameful bit of begging in a failed attempt to get you to change your mind. "But it's with your sisters!" "This could be our holiday card!" Yet you held firm. "I'm too old, Mom." And by some people's standards, I suppose at age 11, you are too old, and have been to believe in this Santa business for some time.

I'm glad you told me later in your room, out of earshot of little believers, what was going through your mind while standing in that line: "Santa isn't real," you said, the disappointment spilling out with your words. And while I'd deflected your questions about the big guy in the past, with that ole standby, "What do you think?", this time, we both knew the jig was up.

I know it's a letdown.

And I hope you'll be patient with me for feeling a little bittersweet.

I didn't tell you the truth about Santa earlier because I wanted you to believe.

I didn't tell you because I loved your childish abandonment of skepticism, and you have a whole lifetime to be cynical (though I advise against it). Childhood is too short to be robbed of any of the holiday magic that is as much its natural right as are balloons and lollipops and snow days.

I didn't tell you because I'd selfishly miss all those innocent moments, from your backseat pronouncements about how hard the elves must be working right now, to reassuring you on Christmas Eve that our chimney flue is wide enough for Santa to shimmy his way down.

I didn't tell you because I knew you'd eventually come to see the truth on your own.

And I hope that one day when you are a parent, you'll be blessed with children who believe in Santa Claus, too, for as long as possible.

It was lovely believing with you.



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