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My Tween Son Is Afraid to Let Go of Santa

Picture 3293-1I was sure last year would mark the final Christmas that Boy Wonder believed in Santa. As the lone believer in his 5th grade class last year, he fought hard to convince himself and others that Santa was real. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary and doubtful noise around him, he chose to listen to his heart because he wanted so much to believe.

While it’s no surprise the last 12 months have brought cognitive developmental shifts within Boy Wonder, witnessing his transformation from a child who believed in infinite possibilities to one of marked skepticism had me more convinced than ever that this Christmas would yield the inevitable “Santa talk.” Except it hasn’t.

In fact, all this season has brought is Boy Wonder’s unspoken refusal to discuss the issue at all. Neither confirming nor denying Santa’s existence is the route he’s chosen to take this Christmas.

While he’d never come right out and say it, it’s fairly obvious that despite his doubts, he’s simply not ready to let go. Either for fear of being wrong, fear of what it all means, fear of growing up, or fear all of it, I can only assume that Boy Wonder senses the fleeting wonder of childhood. He may not be able to identify the feeling, or even have the ability to decipher what it all means, but deep down he’s keenly aware of uncomfortable changes that are coming.

This year, as my tween stands firm in the land of Santa indecision, our family will continue to play along as if nothing has changed, making Santa a welcome part of this and every Christmas until he’s ready to make his final call.

I suspect sometime within the next year Boy Wonder will begin to reconcile what Christmas means without Santa. Perhaps he’ll even begin to discover that Santa was a symbolic representation of a feeling too big and bold to adequately describe. But even if he doesn’t, my goal next Christmas and every year that follows is to reinforce the notion that the magic of Christmas isn’t beholden to Santa, but rather a collective celebration in the hearts of all those who recognize the true meaning.

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