Around these parts, we had only one little person who still believed. One little person that genuinely had stars in his eyes when he talked about the magic of Christmas morning. My other boys have known for a while, of course, but they have manfully and expertly maintained the facade for their little brother. My enjoyment of his childhood wonder has been especially bittersweet this season, as I know that it will come to an end all too soon; the passage of time and company of school friends would see to that.
I have always been quite adamant that I did not want my children to find out on the playground. I thought it was a form of lying to them, if I left them vulnerable to kids making fun of them for their ignorance due to my pretense. As soon as they started to express doubts, we sat them down and explained it to them as gently as possible. We told them they were now members of a secret club, and they had a great responsibility not to tell other children. For both older boys, this had happened well before they started kindergarten.
Today, Terzo came home a little upset. His teacher had them leave out paper shoes for St. Nicholas, and they were filled with a couple pieces of candy when they came in this morning. A few children in the class were quite vocal in their protestations that it was not St. Nicholas, but the teacher, that had put the candy there. He started to discuss the issue over dinner; we changed the subject until we could talk to him about it later. After a brief discussion -- and afterwards, I felt that we probably should have talked about it longer so I could wring my hands over the decision for a more extended period of time, with most likely the same outcome -- we decided that, especially given the personality of one particular child in the class, it was probably best if we said something now. My heart felt as if it was being shredded apart as I watched him struggle to process the information, which was completely and totally news to him.
It became painfully obvious that we told him too soon.
He is the typical third child, babied beyond belief by all of us. We love his speech mannerisms so we don't correct him. (Not all are inconsequential: he cannot distinguish the difference between "thirty" and "forty", because he pronounces them the same, and as a result still cannot count to 100.) We have let him slide with his protestations that he can't get his own clothes in the morning, can't put his shoes on by himself, can't operate the TV. But at what point are we allowing him to enjoy his childhood, or allowing him to remain in baby mode so the rest of us can enjoy the experience vicariously for just a little bit longer? The line seems so much blurrier for this one than it was for the other two.
This is the card that he wrote, with great difficulty by himself (because yes, he still doesn't know all his letters) while I spelled the words for him. He wanted to write a letter to Santa so he can mail it tomorrow. He's clearly working this through on his own terms, while I try not to feel quite so terrible, awful, horrendously incompetent as a parent.