Santa Baby

December 5, 2010

“Does she have a stocking yet?” my parents ask me during their Thanksgiving visit.

She doesn’t, and she won’t really care whether she has one this year.  The presents, the tree trimming, the trappings of Christmas – they’re pretty much all for the enjoyment of the adults this year.  I have red and green blocks that spell out “Joy” and “Noel’ on my bookshelves.  And there is joy.  And the happiness in my life is outweighing the grief, and this means that I can enjoy the red and green and shopping and baking and music in a way I haven’t for a few years now.

My grandmother knit stockings for my brother and me when we were babies – red with our names and Santa Claus on them, his beard knitted with a special angora yarn so that it’s soft and fuzzy to the touch.  Their moments of glory were few – they never came out until Christmas Eve, our stockings – but I still get a little melancholy thinking that they aren’t together now that my brother and I are living on opposite coasts.

I think we figured out that Santa was “really” Mom and Dad long before we ever let on, but knowing the truth didn’t spoil the fun.  When I visited home for the holidays during graduate school we still put out milk and cookies (and a carrot for the reindeer), wrote a note, and hung our stockings.  No longer having the belief, the memory of the belief and the chance to play a group game of  “let’s pretend” was still magic – strong enough and resonant enough to make the ritual a happy one.

I have mixed feelings about Santa now, though.  I want to be scrupulously honest with my child.  I think I would have wanted this even if Teddy hadn’t died, but I don’t want to hide her brother from her, and that means I will soon be in a position where I can’t hide other things from her, too.  Someday I will be put in a place where she will ask questions about her brother and I will be hard up against the desire to make the world seem safe and warm and good and the need to let her know about the important missing part of our family.  I am steeling myself for someday having to guide her through some facts that I wish were different.  The fact that people die.  The fact that babies and children die, even when they are loved and wanted and ours.  The fact that people are sad.  The fact that we love her like crazy and still love and miss her brother, too.

Because I’m thinking about this, about how not to mess up her brother’s story or terrify her with it or hide things from her, I keep coming back to Santa, to stockings.  I loved believing in Santa and I love having memories of believing in Santa.  Santa is a chance to present the world as I want it to be, where all children get gifts from a kind piece of seasonal magic, where wishes come true.  And I may have read too many Dickens novels because when I think of the possibility of no stockings, of no Santa, all that comes to mind is Mr. Gradgrind and his poor, fancy-deprived children who come to bad ends.

But I have a history and a struggle with magical thinking, and while I may not be able to shield Dot from similar struggles, I’d like to at least not be the source of the struggles.  I want a little magic in her world.  I also want a guarantee that it won’t come back to bite her later.  And I want to tell her the truth, always, even as I plan to break it down into digestible bits.

And most of all I want all four of us to be hanging up our stockings this year.

Make that one come true, Santa Baby, and all my ambivalence will blow away like powdered snow under a reindeer’s hooves.



  1. Been thinking about this a lot myself. How to tell him and not screw him up at the same time.
    I hope we both get this right – as right as can be, anyway.

  2. I would like to be hanging up four stockings too.

    I just don’t know. I don’t know how on earth I’m going to tell her, truthfully, without causing awful damage. But I think that lying would be worse.

    As for Santa, as the proud owner of no less than six versions of A Christmas Carol on DVD and several editions of the book, Mr Dickens has me over a barrel too. I can’t see myself coming clean on that one, at least not for a while.

    Magical thinking eh? I’m going to have words (and possibly come to blows) with magical thinking if I ever get my hands on him / her / it!

  3. Ah, the magic of the holidays. I won’t be getting my greatest wish under the tree or in a stocking, this year or ever.

    I have been wondering myself what I want to do about Santa. I saw that there is a book about not doing Santa with kids.

    We don’t have a stocking yet for Bea either. Triple S just asked me about that about an hour ago. I feel like I want to get her something special – here I go off to etsy…

    I also wonder how we will handle telling Bea about her older sister. Someone (I think our couselor or our doula) said something to me about telling Bea, but making she it was about Bea and not me needing to express (and putting it on her) Or something like that. I am not too clear exactly what she meant, but I guess that I should do it mindful of Bea’s cognition, emotions etc.

    I don’t know. I want to think that I have time before ‘it’ will come up, but she is already absorbing so much.

    It’s nice to have other moms with whom to talk about our special parenting issues…

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