By the time they were in fifth grade, my kids were done with Santa.
That was fine with me.
I was done with the December trips to the crowded mall to see the big guy in red…with writing my kids’ names on “Santa’s” presents with my left hand so as not to be detected…with staging the fireplace and the half-eaten cookies just so long after the kids were asleep.
My kids were getting too sophisticated for my ruse, though in the final Santa years, we did get a nice extension courtesy of my accomplices at the NORAD Santa Tracker. Following Santa’s world-wide trip on our computer seemed to satisfy my precocious kids’ thirst for scientific proof of Santa. (This year, it even includes a touch-enabled site, a 3-D globe, and Skype calls to official Santa trackers. Touché, NORAD.)
What’s more, it took the pressure off me to explain how one man can circle the earth in one night, delivering presents along the way. It’s there on the computer, as tracked by the North American Aerospace Defense Command. See? It’s legit.
Until it wasn’t. If you still believe in Santa in middle school? Well dude, that’s not cool. That’s when I realized that the window for Santa-centered Christmases is pretty small. It starts with Baby as Santa’s squirmy prop and ends less than a decade later with The Big Question: “Are you Santa?”
And frankly, it’s a lot of pressure to be Santa. You have to keep the magic alive, sneak the shopping, hide the presents, plan the photos, and put out the treats for Santa and the reindeer, all the while playing second fiddle to an imaginary figure. (“This impressive array of presents are all from Santa, and this little, unimpressive thing you’re about to abandon in the pile of wrapping paper is from Mommy and Daddy.”)
By the time my kids were done with Santa, I was, too. Christmas became less about what was under the tree than what we did around it. Now that my boys are teens, there will be one gift under the tree, an Xbox they picked out while we were buying socks in Target the other day, and plans for a fun trip together, perhaps to Philly or Boston — or both.
That’s it, and yet that’s magical, too — without the fanfare, and without the ruse.
Ho, Ho, Ho? Ho, Ho, No. No Santa. No pressure. No problem. I did my time, and now it’s our time. And that’s fine with me.