The trickiest part about being a parent is justifying how much lying you should do. Ok, maybe it isn’t the trickiest part, but it can make you feel a little funny, especially while in school learning about how messed up people are mostly because of their parents. Am I going to turn Baylor into a compulsive liar? God I hope not.
The first time I told Bay about Santa I felt like a real crazy person… “and then he comes through our chimney and has reindeer on our roof and elves and lives in the North Pole.”
This year Baylor asked when his birthday would come again the day after he turned three. Cake, presents, friends, and a little attention felt pretty good and he wanted more. I explained that first would be Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas.
“With Santa. And presents. Right?”
He couldn’t have cared less about the Halloween candy or pie after turkey and stuffing. He wanted to make his “list.” So, with the help of amazon.com on my phone, we started making a list of things that Baylor would ask Santa for. We started this list in October.
I don’t love the idea of kids asking for gifts, then they get them… then what? There’s no lesson in this; well, not a good one anyway. I told Baylor about the real meaning of Christmas (my mother made sure to let him know who Jesus is) and told him that it is more important to give to people, especially people who need a little help. He seemed to understand this… and then he asked if we could pull up his list.
I signed us up to volunteer at a homeless shelter in December. And I ordered the Elf on a Shelf. Baylor named his elf Peter the Pants.
For those of you without kids or who don’t know about this miracle of a parenting tool, the elf on the shelf lives in your house to watch your children. He comes with a darling book that explains how he flies to the North Pole each night to report to Santa how the day went. Naughty or nice list. Then he comes back to your house, lands in a new position (when I remember) and posts up to keep eyes on the little people causing trouble.
It started great. I’d throw in a little “and Baylor, you can’t pull Betty’s tail because it hurts her, it’s mean, AND the elf is watching.” It never hurts to have a little extra elf card up your sleeve. He’d remember the elf and give me a little look like, oh yeah, that’s right, presents, elf, Santa…
Within a few days the elf was less of a threat and more about the magic. I can remember thinking until I was at least 14 that fairies in the forest were real and that Santa existed. That small amount of wonder and the fact that nothing has proven that they don’t exist, so why not? The joy each morning on his face when he discovers the elf in a new place validates everything. Why wouldn’t the elf fly? He tells absolutely everyone who comes to our house that if you “touch the elf his magic will lose and he can’t fly.”
I told my therapist about letting Baylor believe that the elf flies at night. She said something like, “Allison, it might feel weird to mislead your child because our job is to fill them in. However, you are the protector of your son’s childhood.”
As the protector of his childhood, it is my job to make sure he knows what magic and wonder feels like. It’s my job to make sure he doesn’t grow up too quickly and that he can experience the joys of being a naive child.
I never want it to be taken away from him. I will seriously punch someone in the stomach if they let him in on any of these perfect little secrets. He’ll know the truth about way too much way too soon. These little pieces of childhood that remind me of being carefree are priceless. If only we could revisit them often and remember what it feels like to believe in fairies in the woods… or magic elves on a shelf named Peter the Pants.