It’s Christmas season 2021, and I’m celebrating this year with a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old. Throughout this year, I’ve noticed the changes in my daughters. Slowly, we’ve moved away from glitter and princesses and closer to black combat boots and YouTube. My girls are slowly transitioning from calling me “Mommy” to “Mom” with the occasional “bruh” or worse yet, “Kristin.” Sometimes I have to ask my 12-year-old to translate to Mom-language for me. (What is “bussing”?! And why is everything “sus”?) As Christmas gets closer and closer, I finally realized that this year, neither of my girls believes in Santa.
As any parent does, we treasured the moments that were spent with Santa. It began with babies who were willing to sit on just about anyone’s lap as long as that lap was warm and food was a possibility. From there, they blossomed into toddlers who were terrified. My youngest refused to get anywhere near Santa, even with her older sister nearby. All of our Santa pictures at that age included me holding her in the background, looking haggard and exhausted like I was.
My toddlers eventually became gap-toothed preschoolers and kindergarteners who wrote out long, phonetic letters to Santa every year. They asked Santa for “Brbees” (Barbies), “prnsss” (princesses), and usually one of them would ask for a “tarruh” (tiara). I vividly remember the year my oldest asked for a Sofia the First amulet and was so disappointed when the amulet didn’t turn her into Sofia, as she had assumed from the commercial. From this stage, these kids became tweens and preteens who asked Santa for makeup and iPhones. Which leads me to today, staring at the face of a Christmas without Santa.
Like I did, my oldest daughter stopped believing in Santa when the Tooth Fairy made a slip-up and forgot to deliver a coin for a lost tooth. She began to deduce that if Mom was the Tooth Fairy, Mom was Santa. Although I was disappointed, it was fun to involve her in Santa-ing for my younger daughter. She helped me remember when it was time to move the Elf on the Shelf that I swore I’d never start but somehow did, and she did some recon for me to decipher the secret items my younger daughter was hoping Santa would bring her. In some ways, it was fun to have one kid in on the secret. But finally, this year, my youngest let it slip that she knows Mom is Santa.
With that, I begin my first of hopefully many Christmases in which Mom is Santa, and I’ll be honest, there’s something about this that seems a little less magical this year. We will still watch Elf and The Grinch, and we will still fill stockings and put Santa gifts under the tree. But while I’ll miss finding lists to Santa and seeing their sweet little faces as they sit on his lap, maybe more than that, I just miss those little girls asking for Cinderella dresses and Strawberry Shortcake dolls.
There is a lot that is fun about this age too, as much as I miss their little baby faces. I love having real conversations with my girls about important subjects like feminism and racism, and I love getting to do “grown-up” things with them, like pedicures and watching PG-13 movies. And it’s fun to be a little more honest with them when I forget to move the elf or neglect to buy something on their Christmas lists. As with all phases of parenting, this one will bring new challenges and excitement.
But I’ll always miss Santa.