In just a few months, our twin boys will be eight years old. Long gone are the days of snuggling on the couch while watching 'Go Diego Go' or playing with Elmo toys. Now it's all about Beyblades, video games and watching 'Regular Show' and 'Adventure Time with Jake & Finn.'
And kisses -- blech!
They're also starting to ask that dreaded question. No, no -- the OTHER dreaded question: The Santa Claus question.
It was a simple thing. We were sitting on the couch a few days ago when my one son just looked at me and asked "Do you believe in Santa Claus, Dad?"
"Of course I do, baby," I answered, nervously expecting to have to defend my answer. Instead, he took my response at face value and went right back to the pile of Legos he had on the floor.
I can't say I'm completely surprised. I suspect that a number of their classmates are questioning the plausibility of a husky senior citizen breaking into their homes to leave them presents every December 24th.
I myself was just a few months shy of ten years old when I found out 'the truth.' A couple of kids in school told me what went on after I went to bed Christmas Eve. I didn't want to believe them, so I went right to the one person I knew would give it to me straight: my Nana. Even then, she tried to soften the blow by telling me the story of the true St. Nicholas, and how Moms and Dads honor his memory by pretending to be Santa.
Nevertheless, we were both heartbroken afterwards.
My Mom recently told me that my Dad took the loss of Santa in our house particularly hard as well: he was the one who would drink the cocoa, eat on the cookies and then write a note thanking me for leaving the treats. "He really loved doing that for you," she said.
I know how he felt, as I've been the note writer in our house -- though my wife and I share the duty of cookie crunching and carrot nibbling (you have to leave carrots for the reindeer!).
I remember the first time we took the boys to see Santa. We were still living in Queens at the time, so we visited him at the Queens Center Mall. Being little guys, and incapable of disagreeing with our decisions of what they wore, we dressed them in their own Santa suits. I remember tearing up a little bit at seeing my boys sitting on Santa's lap, looking at him curiously, neither of them crying. 'Santa' was tickled that they were dressed like him and spent extra time with them as there weren't any other kids waiting to see him.
The following year we returned to the mall; "Santa" took one look at us, beamed a great big smile and said, "Well now, I remember you boys from last year!"
No surprise, I teared up again. For the first time in years, Santa Claus was back in my life -- and he was as real as real could be.
And so I'm slowly preparing myself for the inevitable. At the same time -- and there's a part of me angry at myself for admitting this -- there will be some tiny bit of relief when it does happen.
As most of us know, the Holidays aren't cheap -- certainly not these days. And like every year, the kids want the hottest thing for the season.
It's easy for us as parents to tell our kids that we can't afford to buy them something or that it isn't available in the stores -- but how do you tell them that Santa can't pull it off? For them, Claus and the elves build PlayStations, American Girl Dolls and everything else in his workshop, all for free.
Of course it's really our fault for allowing Santa to morph into the gift-churning machine. In a number of European countries, their version of St. Nick still does what he's done for centuries: delivers a small toy or treat to the good children. And I'd wager those kids are quite content.
But here in America, we just don't have the heart not to make our kids holiday wishes come true.
In our house we've done our best to tell the boys that Santa can only bring a few things for them, and they've seemed more or less agreeable. This year, however, they're both asking Santa for Nintendo 3DS game systems. "That's not a lot," one says. "And they're not big presents, Daddy!" the other notes, based on the size of the device. They haven't quite figured out yet that some of the smallest things in the world can be the most expensive. (Wait until they have to look for diamond rings.)
So yes, Santa will be bringing them what they want this year. Because my wife and I are suckers for that unbelievably huge smile that comes with believing. And because I want to nibble on those cookies, write that note and hear them say "We love Santa!" at least one more Christmas morning.
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