So, after Easter dinner, the kids and I went to Kmart to make the exchange. My son located the character he wanted (The Undertaker) and we went to the Service Counter where I handed the receipt to the cashier.
My boy became immediately suspicious: "How come you have a receipt?"
"It's the gift receipt. Remember?"
"Can I see it, Mom," he asked suspiciously.
"No, the cashier needs it," I responded, winking at the cashier, encouraging her to play along. For, I certainly didn't want my boy to see the miscellaneous Easter candy purchases.
"Come on, Mom."
"No, son, the lady needs that receipt."
"When she's done," he offered.
We went back and forth for a few seconds and then, responding to a subtle cue from me, the cashier tore up the receipt and tossed the pieces.
As we headed outside, it became immediately obvious that my boy was suspicious. "Mom, do you and Dad bring the candy? My friends say that they do?"
John is ten. He is heading to middle school next fall and as we approached the car, it seemed that the moment for coming clean had arrived. I knew that it was going to hurt, like ripping a band aid off a wound, but it had to happen.
So, we had "the Talk." We soon arrived at the big question: "What about Santa? You and Dad don't have the money to buy all those Christmas presents."
I hesitated and then answered the question, well aware of diminution of magic that was occurring in his world right before my eyes.
He swallowed hard, but didn't protest. I did see some tears welling up in his eyes. He was quiet for most of the ride home,
When we got there, I directed John in to my husband, so that he could offer some moral support to our boy.
We talked through the whole Santa issue, gave John the "spirit of Christmas spiel." Then, inspiration struck my husband. He said something, "You know how the WWE is entertainment, right, that it is not real?"
"Yes," John nodded, his eyes, distressingly full.
"But it's still awesome? You love watching it even though it's staged. It's magical, right?"
John nodded again.
"Christmas is like that. It doesn't work exactly the way you thought it did. Santa may not deliver the gifts. But there was a real Santa and his spirit inspires your mother and myself, and most other parents, to act like Santas for you. So, Santa is real. He acts through us. It's just like WWE. It may not be as it first appears, but that doesn't diminish how cool it is."
Amazingly, it worked. My husband is a genius. This explanation satisfied my boy and rendered slightly less painful this step in the maturation process for my son.
It is bittersweet that are no more "believers" in my house. But maybe the trick is in understanding that we all just have to shift our beliefs a little bit, that the magic is, in fact, still there.
John is handling the new information well, is seemingly proud to be "in the know." However, he did ask me: "What about leprechauns? And, do the animals really speak at midnight on Christmas Eve?"
I nodded my head and said "Yes." For, I do believe in magic and in miracles and I want that for my child as well.