This week I found Seamus crying quietly in his bedroom.
ME: What’s the matter, honey?
SEAMUS: I’m just not even going to worry about Santa this year.
ME: What? What do you mean?
SEAMUS: ‘Cause what’s the point? I know I’m not going to get anything.
I couldn’t believe it.
ME: …Because you’ve been so bad?
SEAMUS: (wretched sobbing)
ME: Honey! You haven’t been that bad of a boy this year!
SEAMUS: Yes, I have.
Yes. He has.
ME: Seamus, all Santa really cares about is that you’re trying to be good!
SEAMUS: No, Mom. TRYING doesn’t count. It’s what you DO.
ME: Well then, let’s think of all the GOOD things you’ve done this year!
Seamus starts to cry again.
I eventually talked my eight-year-old off the No-Toys Ledge of Desperation, but it wasn’t easy. At one point I considered just telling him the truth– we both know he can get a lot more past his mother than some omniscient Kris Kringle would put up with.
But I decided that would be worse. My son really really wants to believe even when he claims otherwise, as I discovered the hard way when he tentatively disavowed the Tooth Fairy. He wants Santa in his life; he’s making new lists every day.
I still want Santa in our lives too- I’ve seen my son trying his very best not to irritate his older brother and his younger sister every single minute of the day. I mean, he still does, but he’s taking an hour off here and there. I appreciate even that much effort.
But there was some rethinking of Santa involved. My child’s conception of Santa was a very Old-Testament one: a judgmental bearded man, sitting on his candy cane throne, inscribing all children into the books of either the Toy-Worthy or the Damned. No Purgatory here either, just a Naughty/Nice dichotomy.
I tried to reshape this into a more New-Testament/Zen Buddhist/my yoga teacher sort of Santa: someone who sees the best in each child and really wants them to achieve their goodness potential so that they may be rewarded with the bounty of their most fervently held wishes.
Still, life is short and brutish, so I made sure to not get Seamus’s hopes up. No matter how good he is, I told him, he won’t be getting a Umagine Doctor Dreadful Zombie Drink Lab. A jolly old elf has got to have some standards.
Do you have believers in your house? Anyone on the high-risk list for coal this year?