Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

April 28, 2014

Goodbye Kids, Hello Holiday Helper

AE_HelloJoy

NOTE BEFORE READING | This post includes holiday spoilers for kids. 

A couple weeks ago (before Easter) Chris had “the talk” with Simon about some of the ways of the world related to the holidays. We had decided together it was time for him to hear it from us vs. from kids at school (whether well or ill intentioned). The talk went really well and I asked Chris if he’d be willing to write up the experience and if I could share it here. My hope is that it might help another parent as they navigate these waters with their kids. Obviously, every kid is different but the approach of becoming a “holiday helper” really seemed to resonate with Simon.


Since before this last holiday season of 2013 (Simon was 11), I have been concerned about how and when we were going to tell Simon the truth about those holiday icons, Santa and the Easter Bunny. You see, Simon has always been a true believer. And that kid has more Holiday spirit than anyone I have ever met. It is difficult to get away with cutting corners during the holidays with Simon. From advent calendars to outside lights on the house, there are certain things that you just do at the holidays….and he truly enjoys every moment and every tradition.

So you can imagine the angst as we had been anticipating how the conversation would go and how he would react. When we discussed it prior to last holiday season, we weren’t sure he was quite ready to make the leap in perspective…from one of innocent believer to one of being “in on the secret”. But it was clear that when he got into an argument with a sixth grade peer about whether Santa was real or not, that it would be time to let him know at least by next Christmas. I think he must be among the very last in his class to still believe. For many kids, it perhaps isn’t a big deal. But to Simon, truth is truth. He has always been a Santa believer and he is getting to the age where it could become another source of division between him and his classmates.

I talked with Tiff about this and she suggested approaching it by emphasizing that we were letting him in on a secret. She also suggested it would be an easier conversation when the holidays were way in the future, such as during the summer. I thought so too. Simon likes being “in the know” when others aren’t. He likes surprises. He loves giving surprises. He is good at keeping those secrets. In short, he is now old enough to join the grownups as a fellow keeper of holiday traditions and spirit.

Ali and I talked about it and agreed that this would be the year.

I decided to lay the groundwork with St. Patrick’s Day. When the kids woke up in the morning on March 17th, for the third year in a row, the Leprechauns had visited us in the night, making their usual mischief by turning over tables and chairs and leaving the house in disarray. What was different this year, was that after dropping Anna off at school, I let Simon in on a secret.

He just grinned when I told him that it had really been me that had turned the furniture over and pretended that it was Leprechauns. He actually thought it was pretty cool…both the trick and that he knew about it.

Fast forward to the week before Easter. I was in the hot tub at our local athletic club with both Anna and Simon. Tiff came to take Anna to the girls’ locker room to get changed so we could go eat dinner. Apparently Tiff had just seen the Easter Bunny walking through the lobby, so she and Anna hurried off to see if they could go see it. Simon wanted to see the Easter Bunny too but I suggested that Simon wait back for a minute while they went ahead. I don’t remember the exact order or wording of the conversation, but this is more or less how it went:

“So Simon, I want to let you in on a secret.”

“Uh, yes?”

“Do you remember Simon how on St. Patrick’s Day I told you that the Leprechauns don’t really exist, and that it was me that turned over all the furniture and pretended that the Leprechauns had visited us in the middle of the night?”

“Um, yeah…”

“Well, that is the same as with the Easter Bunny.”

Pause, pause, pause while I read his face as he is thinking – terrified that this could go very badly.

“Yep, we do that to make a fun holiday tradition for the kids. And all the grownups are in on the secret. And we all play along to make it fun for the kids on Easter. And now Simon, you are old enough to be let in on the secret. Now you are old enough to cross over to the other side and to even help up with the Easter holiday tradition.”

Pause, pause, pause….so far so good. No tears. No arguing. He’s clearly thinking. Wow this has to be a lot to absorb for such a strong holiday believer.

Pause, so far so good. If this keeps going this well we might as well rip the entire bandage off. I won’t bring up Santa but this could clearly end up with a discussion about the big guy.

“What do you think about that Simon? What do you think about us letting you in on the secret?”

Finally a grin.

“I think it’s pretty cool.”

And then started the questions.

“Wait, so when does the Easter Bunny hide the eggs?”

“He doesn’t. The Easter Bunny isn’t real. I am the Easter Bunny. Or mom is the Easter Bunny. Or maybe now you can even be the Easter Bunny. Every Easter morning I (or your Mom) set my alarm for really early and I get up and hide the eggs before you and Anna wake up. That’s why you never see the Easter Bunny.”

“Oh. But what about the Easter baskets?”

“That’s also grownups. We buy stuff for your baskets and then put them out early in the morning when we hide the eggs.”

“Oh, I see.”

“It’s a pretty cool tradition isn’t it? All the grownups having the same tradition to make the holidays special fun for the kids.”

“Yeah, it sure is.”

“And Simon, now YOU can be a part of that!”

Grinning.

“Yeah.”

He’s clearly still processing and thinking.

“Um, what about Santa Clause? Is he real?”

Here we go….Leprechauns, the Easter Bunny…..they’re cute, but hardly the focus for weeks if not months prior…..but Santa….oh man that is where things could go really sideways.

“Well Simon, it’s the same with Santa. Santa is a tradition created by grownups so that all the kids can have fun at Christmas. Just like the Easter Bunny or the Leprechauns. It is a secret that the grownups have to make Christmas magical. And now you are old enough to be let in on that secret also.”

At this point he again visibly grins and even chuckles as he puts all the pieces start to fall into place for him. Pause, pause, pause.

“That is how Santa always knows what you want for Christmas. Because Santa is really Mom and me. We keep track of what you are saying you want for Christmas and then we get you and Anna presents from us but we also get you presents that we say are from Santa. And now you are in on the holiday secret.”

Then the grin fades to a brief look of concern as he poses the next question.

“Wait, will I still get presents?”

“Oh yeah Simon, you’ll still get presents from Santa. You will notice that even the grownups still get presents from Santa. We just always wrap those in one kind of wrapping paper that is different so they look like they are all from Santa. But really they are from each other.”

“But what about when we see Santa and tell him what we want for Christmas?”

“Well that is another grownup in a costume pretending to be Santa. You know how this year you were saying that Santa looked different than last year? And remember how Santa in Bend looked different than the Santa here in Eugene? That’s because they are different grownups in costumes. But since either Mom or Dad is always with you when you go see Santa we know what you ask for. Santa Clause is a great tradition that all the grownups around the world are a part of and we do it for kids at Christmas. And now you are old enough to be a part of that tradition. Pretty cool huh?”

“Mom and I talked about it last year, but we weren’t sure that you were ready yet to be let in on the secret. But this year, we think you are old enough to be a part of it and to be able to keep the secret yourself and to even help us. Now you can help and even be the Easter Bunny or Santa yourself! ……….Let’s go get showered up Simon so we can eat dinner.”

Then with a look of excitement he flicked his hand in the air (one of his signature moves) and declared, “Goodbye kids, hello helping holidays!”

And with that he grinned and seemed to stand a little taller as we walked to the boys locker room, where he continued to ask a few more questions about the tradition of Santa Clause… from the other side.

It went as well as I could have hoped. His heart wasn’t broken, and Simon still has the greatest holiday spirit of anyone I know. And now whenever he talks with us grownups about the Easter Bunny or Santa Clause in the presence of Anna, he includes a knowing wink. I love that.

Welcome to the other side Simon.


The image at the top of this post is from my 2011 December Daily® album. See more details here.

Comments

  • 1.
    Susie said…

    Wow! What an amazing post. Thank you for sharing. Such a beautiful boy you have. My daughter is almost 10 and also a believer. I’m sure I will soon reach this decision making time and will remember your approach. I love the ‘secretive nature’ of it.

  • 2.
    Ilona said…

    Oh how I loved reading this, thanks for sharing!! Simon is so smart!!! And I loved his question “Wait, will I still get presents?” so cute! And at the end his “Goodbye kids, hello helping holidays!” Way to go Simon! :-)

  • 3.
    ailynk said…

    that went rather well I think

  • 4.
    Christen said…

    Very sweet!

  • 5.
    kass hall said…

    I think you guys handled that really well and maintained what is special about the EB, Santa etc for Simon. I also think Simon handled what IS big news in a kids life really well. Well done everyone – great to see a delicate topic handled in such a great way.

  • 6.
    Kirsty A said…

    Thanks for sharing this – I’ve never done Easter bunny or Leprecauns but I’m at the stage of needing to tell R at SANTA

  • 7.
    ZoeZuDesign said…

    Oh I cried reading that story!
    What a sweet boy you have and what thoughtful parents you are to take control of a delicate topic for him.

  • 8.
    Michelle t. said…

    I teared up too. It’s a very sweet, endearing story, one I will turn to when it’s time to let my daughter in on it. She’s the youngest, but I can still use the holiday helper. I think she’s one of the few left in her class. Simon is such a sweet and smart kid. I think it’s amazing you and Chris are able to come together like this for your kids. It was so nice to read his perspective on it. Thank you very much for sharing this. Michelle t

    • ….
      Kris Beauregard said…

      I have been dodging this topic with my 11 year old daughter for a good while. What a great idea to let her in on a secret.

      So cool that Chris wrote up this post.

      I hope this does not come across wrong, but You and Chris are seriously rocking this dual-parenting thing. Seriously impressed. (I am a 41 year old “survivor” of my parents divorce. They could have taken a lesson or two)

  • 9.
    Jeanne W said…

    This is so beautiful! I have tears in my eyes. I have a 12 year old daughter who is such a believer! I’m still not sure she’s ready to be a helper..but your post gives me hope that she can handle it. I like the idea of doing it by summer so she has time to let it sink in. Thanks for a touching post.

  • 10.
    laura g. said…

    what a great post and a great way to handle breaking the news! we have a wide age range of grandkids and so of course the older ones are in on the “secret” and love playing along for the younger ones. sometimes I think they still like to “believe” a little longer…

  • 11.
    Lindsay said…

    This is without a doubt my favourite post you have ever written. It gave me goosebumps and made me cry. You are so good at being real Ali!

  • 12.
    Liz said…

    wow what an amazing sweet story…i love it to pieces

  • 13.
    Jen K. said…

    Thanks for sharing that Chris and Ali; it was … beautiful. I loved it–one of my favorite posts of the year!

  • 14.
    Susan said…

    WOW! I love this and will store it away for the near future with my kids. It has put a little tear in my eye though! Thanks for sharing this!

  • 15.
    Christine said…

    Simon’s last statement…….priceless.

  • 16.
    Laura said…

    What a sweet, sweet boy you have. I’m so glad “the talk” went so well — he was obviously ready to handle it and move on to a new phase.

  • 17.
    young said…

    So sweet! A little sad, but so great, too. :)

  • 18.
    Sandi said…

    Great story! We had the same situation with my oldest son. He believed when all his classmates did not. We also finally had to talk with him.
    One year when both my boys believed and they were starting to hear talk at school my youngest said, ” I know Santa is real because mom would never lie to me.” I did worry at the time he would look at it as “mom lied to me”. But he did not after he was let in on the secret.
    Sandi

  • 19.
    Annette said…

    Just beautiful! If only all kids could find out that way.

  • 20.
    Debora Prass said…

    Thanks so much for sharing the story! I have a 16 year old girl, and a 8 year old boy. Sadly, he is already asking questions because of what other kids in school say – some people don’t see how all this magic is importante! What I do for my daughter, after she was let in on the secret, is still try to surprise her. Like, even if she helps me wrap presentes, I save one as a surprise for her. On easter is the same, even though she knows it is me, she is delight to find out what surprise I prepared for her every year!

    • ….
      Katie said…

      I LOVE this idea Debra! Keeps the magic alive!

    • ….
      Marti Richards said…

      Oh, yes- I love this idea, too! :)

  • 21.
    smcl said…

    I cried.

  • 22.
    Katie said…

    This made me tear up AND smile :) Thank you so much for sharing this sweet story about your sweet boy! :)

  • 23.
    Leanne in CA said…

    Wow, awesome post. It’s so hard telling the kids and not ruining it for them! You guys did great and a helper is always needed. Thanks for sharing this post!! Have a fabulous week.

  • 24.
    Sherrie said…

    Thank you Ali and Chris for this amazing story. My son was a true believer too and letting him know about the Easter bunny was harder than Santa. I remember him tearing up and consoling him. He’s 22 now and he still loves an Easter basket surprise on Easter morning. Believers are the most special people in the world – they keep the wonder and innocence alive in us all.

    • ….
      michelle t said…

      So very true. What a sweet, heartfelt comment. Thank you. Michelle t

  • 25.
    liz said…

    This is pure awesome!

  • 26.
    Deborah said…

    Beautifully done. What a lovely post, and what a lovely family.

  • 27.
    Deb J said…

    This is so good. I’m so glad Simon took it so well. He’s really doing well with all of this and that shows how much he is growing up and handling things better.

  • 28.
    KellyC said…

    He handled that better than a lot of kids I know. Atta boy Simon!!!!

  • 29.
    Sarah said…

    wow just wow!

  • 30.
    Cynthia H said…

    That is so sweet! Love that Simon is expressing pride at becoming a grown up. May we all embrace that transition so gracefully.

  • 31.
    Teresa L. said…

    So touching and a great way to explain it. Awesome!

  • 32.
    Mary Beth said…

    Such a sweet story. Congrats to you and Chris for handling the big reveal in such a careful and caring way. Great parents, great kid!

  • 33.
    Kelli W said…

    Thank you for making me smile after a rough morning – you have a truly special kid!

  • 34.
    Kim Schofield said…

    We just went the route of always telling the kids the truth from the beginning…Mom and Dad are “santa, the easter bunny, tooth fairy, etc.” That way…no worries and no disappointments. Christmas morning is just as exciting and spectacular of an event as if we had continued the santa myth like our parents did when we were little. And we don’t have to go through the stress of trying to figure out what that pesky elf is up to each night! LOL!

  • 35.
    Stephanie Baxter said…

    What a beautiful story!

  • 36.
    Pam said…

    Thanks, Ali, for sharing this post. & thanks to Chris, for taking the time to write it up. I love how Simon has embraced his new role in keeping the holidays magical!

  • 37.
    Leslie S. said…

    Very beautiful. Chris did a great job explaining everything. I love how he made Simon feel special for being in on the secret. Kuddos to you guys.

  • 38.
    Sally said…

    Oh Ali (and Chris), thank you. Your timing is impeccable. My 11 yr old son is ASD & has asked me point blank a few times but I can tell how much he desperately wants to believe, so I have continued to perpetuate the myths. Socially he does pretty well but lately I have noticed the gap widening as his peers are maturing into adolescence and I’ve been feeling like I am doing him a disservice to keep him in the dark. He is also an only, so some of it is my not wanting to give up the childhood stuff…….thank you for giving me some reassurance and a script to work with! xo

  • 39.
    karen c said…

    Beautifully done!

    My son is very logical and pragmatic so he figured it out at age 9. We emphasized the “spirit of Santa” is for grownups in the holiday season, because it’s not just kids that the holiday season is for and that there’s other giving happening besides toys to kids. But we all still get gifts from Santa (different wrapping paper :) and my son, now 20 still takes his young cousins for visits to Santa and happily poses right along with them. The season is magical if you make it magical!

  • 40.
    Carrie said…

    Kudos to you, A + C, for always being so mature in parenting your kids together. Love you.

  • 41.
    Lynn Herrick said…

    I had to tell my daughter this year before the holidays – she is 12 and I did not want her to be embarrassed at school. Loved her response too, “I am heartbroken.” So real, so honest and so true. She was fine after a few minutes, but I think she was really hoping maybe there was some truth to it!

  • 42.
    Merry Mom said…

    I think that this was handled well. My only suggestion would be to use the word “surprise” instead of “secret”.

    • ….
      Ali said…

      I totally agree :) .

  • 43.
    Darlene said…

    Ali, I think you & Chris did a great job of telling Simon about holiday magicked. It brought tears to my eyes to see him turn from a little boy into a young man due to the conversation. Thank you for sharing such a tender story with your readers.
    As always God Bless,
    Darlene

  • 44.
    solgunnf said…

    What an amazing story! I just loved reading it. And Chris is such a good writer too. Thanks for sharing.

  • 45.
    Heather said…

    This post made me cry as well. As a mom of a 7 and 5 year old, I am thankful that I have a few more years left of them believing, but I am going to save this post as a reminder of how to share the secret with them when the time comes. Great post and way to go Simon!

  • 46.
    Anne said…

    What a fantastic way of “breaking the news” to children. Mine have both known for a number of years now and I wish I had thought to tell them in this way. Simon’s such a trooper! Thanks for sharing your story.

  • 47.
    Jenny A said…

    This is so awesome Ali! Thanks for sharing. Really liked reading this from Chris’ side. I am going to be referring to this when the time comes to let my kids in on “the secret” too. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • 48.
    BettyLou said…

    How sweet, so thankful you shared this story. Even though my children are out on their own, I loved reading this and wish I had managed this transition like this.

  • 49.
    Becky M said…

    Where were you two when I needed you! Great story!

  • 50.
    Marti Richards said…

    Love this. My oldest is almost 9 and he is a true believer and I am pretty sure that this kind of conversation will be the way to go with him. :) Thank you for posting.

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