Saturday, March 26, 2016


My son (age 8) still believes. Believes in it all. Santa, the tooth fairy, the wood fairies that live in the "enchanted forest" behind our house (the ones that periodically leave a gift of a glass gem or gold bell), the Switch Witch who comes on Halloween and trades your candy for a toy. Once in a while he makes a grand announcement that he, in fact, does not believe, but then the Switch Witch fails to trade candy for toy on the first night because, even though she was at Target returning things two days before halloween, she forgot all about her duties and neglected to pick anything up. But my son's crushing disappointment leads me to conclude that his proclamations are just for show. He believes.

And tomorrow is Easter. Although I'm pretty sure that the Easter Bunny comes of her own accord and does her thing unbidden, my kids decided to hedge their bets and leave a note with requests. Clark's note says: "Instead of a stuffed animal, can you leave me a playmobil set?" Pretty sure that's not gonna happen. And there are carrots for goodwill or, perhaps, bribery.

For a while I worried that Frances, in particular, was getting too old for this belief. She will be 10 by next Christmas, and aren't we in dangerous territory if she is still hanging on? As a child I was unburdened of belief at age four, so I don't understand the value of continued belief, don't understand what good it does developmentally. But my most recent thought is that there is no harm. That, in fact, belief in this kind of magic is important, that it enables them to believe in unseen things later on: friendship, love, God, goodness.

In fact, isn't Santa really God embodied?? The one who sees us when we are sleeping, he knows when we're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good. He hands down judgements from on high: toys or coal, but who gets coal? A benevolent kind grandfatherly type, and he loves you so much you get to sit on his lap! The protestant ideal.

Plus, I've come to believe they will arrive at the Truth on their own.

So I've let go of the worry. I do not lie to them; when they ask directly (the boy has asked maybe twice in his life) if Santa or the Easter Bunny is real, I simply turn the questions around: "What do you think?" And he enters into a lengthy monologue about his thinking, demonstrating that he wasn't really interested in my answer after all-- he simply wanted an outlet for this thoughts.

Just before this past Christmas, two of his school friends kept telling him that Santa isn't real. He didn't know what to make of this. He brought it up to me several times, what these friends were saying, but interestingly during this time he never asked me directly. Finally he said that he had proven to one of them that Santa is indeed real: he said, "If Santa isn't real, when you write him a letter, where does it go?" His friend said, "Nevermind," and dropped the subject.

And Clark knew then that he had stumped him.

He is the more mathematical and scientific minded of the two. She is the artistic one. Her belief is less wavering-- when he first announced that he thought it was perhaps parents and not Santa or the Easter Bunny that brought things, she said, "Maybe it's the fairies!"

Yet I see the questions behind her eyes. I hear her mind whir when she asks what's in the sealed box filled with Easter candy she happened upon. She chooses to accept my explanation, but she wonders. She suspects. She sneaks around and leaves presents for Clark from the "fairies" or "leprechauns" and shushes me not to tell him. She plays the game for him, the bringer of joy. She understands the function of the magic. She chooses to believe. 

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