I had one of those moments last week. Your child asks you a question, you’re caught like a deer in headlights, you make a choice, and it’s the wrong one. Sigh.
This past year, Punkin has been increasingly inquisitive about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, etc. She’s very intelligent, and much like me, needs to know the logic behind the concept. So I’ve periodically been inundated with questions like, “But how does Santa get around the whole world in one night? Why don’t I hear the tooth fairy when she comes in the room? How does she get in if my window is closed? How does the Easter bunny carry the baskets if he doesn’t have any hands?”
These are the very questions that led me, at the age of 5, to announce to my parents that I knew the truth: Santa and the Easter bunny couldn’t be real, because it’s impossible to travel the globe in one night. And the tooth fairy isn’t real either. Mom puts the money there.
So last week, Punkin came up to me with the usual line of questioning and then said, “But, Mommy, what do you believe?” Cue the deer in headlights response.
Think, Mediocre Mom, think. You know what you believe, but do you tell Punkin? Is she old enough?
I avoided the topic with something smooth like, “Uhhh…I have to go make dinner. We’ll talk about it later.” Some might say, “Whatever. Just keep up the deception and say you believe.” And in the past, that’s what I did. But Punkin’s getting older now. And to complicate matters, she’s really starting to ask questions about our faith, God, and our beliefs. I love this. But given that these things are of great importance to us, do I want to teach her that I say I believe in things, only to find out later that I actually don’t? Santa, sure. Tooth Fairy, no problem. Easter Bunny, not an issue. But what if she questions whether or not God is real because I just flippantly believe in omniscient fat men in red suits and supersized rabbits that carry Cadbury cream eggs? Mmmm…cream eggs…
I decided to be honest. I’ve always taught Punkin that no matter what she did, if she told the truth, that was the most important thing to me. If she was honest, she had made the right choice, even if she had done something wrong. So I led by example, and I told her the truth.
Huge. Flippin. Mistake.
She was devastated. Teary eyed, she told me that it was much more fun when she believed. A couple of days later, she found an old toy Santa at Grandma’s house, and threw it on the floor mumbling, “What’s the point? He’s not even real.”
My heart was broken. I was so sure I did the right thing, but I’ve caused Punkin so much sadness. I took away a magical piece of childhood that I can’t ever give back. Sigh.
Maybe she’ll see the points I was trying to make in the long run:
- Mommy is always willing to talk. Especially about the big stuff. And I will do so without getting upset.
- Mommy is always willing to listen.
- Mommy is always willing to be honest about her own thoughts and feelings, because I want Punkin to do the same.
- Mommy makes mistakes. Because nobody is perfect. And just like Punkin still loves me, even after I shattered her Christmas/Easter/Loose tooth dreams, I will always love her. No matter what.
Maybe in the long run, this will pay off. But for now, I feel like I got a great big “F” on my parenting report card. Good thing we have a mommy-daughter date in a couple of days. I’d like to see Santa produce a trip to the salon for girl time, followed by ice cream and shopping for spring clothes. None of that is motivated by my utter guilt at destroying her innocence, by the way. None of it.