“Buddy, look! It’s Santa!” I said excitedly to my four year old. It was the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Santa was making his way down Broadway in his intricate sleigh. This is a moment I've anticipated every year for pretty much my entire life. Santa's arrival during the parade means that it's officially Christmastime: It's my cue to begin to craft my Christmas list, break out my favorite Christmas albums and put up my Christmas tree.
But as I excitedly pointed Santa out to my son, he didn’t share my joy. “Oh!” he finally said, trying to mimic my excitement, but failing a little before he turned back to his toys. I looked at him like he had two heads. How could he not be excited about Santa Claus? Santa is magical, isn’t he? Not to my preschooler, apparently.
Santa is magical, isn’t he? Not to my preschooler, apparently.
I spent the next few days wondering where I went wrong. As much as I love the holidays, I had assumed he was too young to really understand the meaning of Christmas. He liked opening presents, but he showed little interest in understanding what exactly Christmas was all about. But when he likened Santa Claus to Sir Toppam Hatt from "Thomas and Friends" (to be fair, Sir Toppam Hatt did dress up as Santa, and the resemblance was spot on) I realized maybe I had dropped the ball by not introducing the guy with the beard sooner.
When my son was one, I decided that I wasn’t going to put a huge emphasis on Santa bringing presents. As a single mom who worked as a freelance writer and a babysitter, I didn’t have a lot of money to buy extravagant gifts. I was always bummed as a kid when “Santa” didn’t bring me the expensive gifts I wanted because my parents couldn’t afford them, so I didn’t want to do that to my kid. But that didn’t mean I didn’t want him to believe — I just wanted him to manage his expectations about Santa.
After the Santa debacle, I asked my son if he wanted Santa to bring the toy he wanted for Christmas. “No Mommy, Greha can get it.” Greha is my mom, who always gets him whatever gift he really wants. I laughed because he was so confident that his grandma would get him his toy (she will, of course) that this Santa guy seems bogus in the gift-giving realm. I tried to explain to him that Santa’s main job is to get kids toys, and he just dismissed me with a wave of his little hand. He knew who the real MVP of Christmas was, and it’s not the chubby guy in the red suit.
My son's relationship with Santa doesn't have to be what mine once was for it to be special.
As I've reflected on my son's lack of interest in Santa, I've realized that I’m okay with it. Sure, Santa was a huge part of my childhood Christmas joy, but Santa isn’t the be all and end all. We can still enjoy Christmas and Santa in our own way. My son's relationship with Santa doesn't have to be what mine once was for it to be special.
My son loves cookies, so I told him we get to make cookies to leave out for Santa and he's excited to do that. He’ll still get a couple gifts from the big guy, they’ll just be books instead of toys. My son's reminded me that Christmas is more than just Santa — it’s about creating your own magic.