As a child I was very logical, a realist even before kindergarten. Being a silly, overly excited person wasn't really in my DNA, at least I don't remember being that way and no family member has disputed that thought so, I'll go with it. In my "regular" life, I don't remember the anticipation, the dreaming, the excitement of much of anything. In fact, I do vividly remember if I showed a slight bit of excitement for most things, Dad would quickly tell me to settle down, to "chill." Christmas, however, was different.
It was 1986. I was 4 years old. It was Christmas Eve; we came home from Mamaws and quickly got ready for bed. My mother's Christmas build up was intense. There wasn't one present laid out. Not one. Nothing under that tree. Nothing at the chimney, nothing. We (my brother and I) laid out the cookies and milk. I would imagine it was actually me alone because David would have been too wild to do much of anything intentionally at any age but especially at two. I feel strongly The Night Before Christmas was read and off to my bedroom I went. Knowing me, I attempted to stay up and listen for Santa. Knowing me, I tried to think of all the ways to catch him OR catch my parents if this whole thing was a lie.
Morning came, we made the calls to my grandparents and aunt and uncle, letting them know it was time to come to the house. Santa DID come last night. My mother's stories were beyond real. Her second grade teacher voice never once sounded like she was faking or making this whole thing up. She made us cover our eyes as we walked past the opening to the living room and wait in the kitchen for the family. First in the door, was Papaw. Comfy clothes and a big ole smile (he was my guy). Up next Mamaw, best story teller, known to man. If you ever need someone to lie to your kids, she's your girl. "Well, did HE come? Do you think Santa made it? I thought I heard sleigh bells around 1:00 this morning but . . . ." Next through the door Bill. My Uncle Bill - coffee in one hand and a giant sleeve of batteries in the other - ready for anything. Lastly Susie, HO HO HO, in a high pitch voice, over and over again. FINALLY, I thought. They're all here. Let me in that room!!!!! Mom picked me up and off the counter, it was time. I slowly walked around the corner, all eyes on me, and the living room was magic. FULL. Presents under the tree, around the tree, on both sides of the tree. Big toys already put together and all the stockings filled. Flashes of cameras and music playing in the background. It was the closest I would ever be to feeling famous as a 4 year old.
He came. Santa WAS real.
This feeling of magic was the most real of any I remember in my childhood. We didn't go to Disney World. I never met Cinderella. We didn't do a lot beside play sports. I don't remember much about the details of my life before age 10 but I remember Christmas.
Here's the deal. We are Christians and believe Christmas is the celebration of Jesus' birth. Facts.
Many of my kids friends and our family don't believe in Santa but for me, I believe. Every year I do my best to pull off the same kind of magic I experienced as a kid. At first Tim didn't really get it. You see, his dad is a minister, and they stuck with all things church, Jesus, and family for Christmas - and trust me - I don't think there is anything wrong with that BUT I also don't think there is anything wrong with the parents who make Santa memories and that's why I felt lead to write this post.
Parents are judged all the time. For some moms, it's like their part time job to point out all the ways their decisions are better than other moms decisions. I overhear conversations at restaurants, in bathrooms, at ballgames and I seriously giggle.
"Can you believe she lets her kids eat processed food?"
"Heavens, when I was raising my children, I read stories every single night, and would never have allowed even 30 minutes of this screen time"
"I would never have purchased cookies for a bake sale."
"Santa? Oh, not in my home."
Blah, blah, Karen (not a reference to my mother who's name is actually Karen) - We know, you were/are the perfect mother and all the other ways are stupid. Got it.
Santa - as a subject, (being a Christian, church going, private school attending, family), is one that I have always felt judged about but Do Not Care.
For me, Santa was special. Waiting on Santa and the anticipation of something awesome happening was amazing. Going to bed knowing that something magical was on it's way. Believing WHOLLY in something I had no proof of. Believing FULLY that even though it made no sense at all, that something wildly magical could happen, was essential for my heart as a kid.
I want my kids to know that feeling. I want my kids to be excited and I won't apologize for it.
This doesn't take away from my teaching that this holiday is about Jesus and Him coming as a baby to live a perfect life and later die for us.
Every year, I want other kids to feel the magic that I did as a kid so I hire the REAL SANTA to come to my studio and meet with my "good list" clients. They get to have a private conversation and have pictures made (not at all like at the mall) and get an extra dose of believing. The very first year I did this, Emma was 6 years old. She walked in the back room at my studio and her face turned into the biggest smile I had ever seen in my life. Her chubby little cheeks pressed so high up, that her eyes disappeared. She walked slowly to Santa and couldn't even form the words to say when he asked, "Emma, what would you like for Christmas."
This tradition of Santa wasn't for me, and doesn't seem to be for my children, about how much or even what Santa brings, it's simply that he came. It's having hope in something and then seeing that amazing things can happen.
I 100% respect all the families who go the "Santa's not real" route, but for us, we believe. For us, we visit Santa, we wait on Santa, and we get excited and that's ok. Whatever you choose to do, you do you. If you are a Santa believing crew, own it. Don't apologize - it's ok. Let the judgy be judgy - ain't nobody got time for that. Keep watching Hallmark, keeping lying to your kids, keep eating those cookies - A little bit of dreaming isn't going to hurt anyone.