He had been playing with his Legos in the playroom before he met me in the kitchen with a keen observation:
"After we go to bed, you and Daddy stay up later," Evan announced.
"We do," I agreed, distracted by the safety pins and ribbons I was counting on to solve Max's costume crisis of the moment.
"But I mean you guys stay up later. Downstairs," he persisted.
"Yeah, we're downstairs for awhile after you guys go to sleep. But not for too long," I assured him, thinking he was campaigning for a later bedtime. Max's Belle gown was properly pinned and tucked and tied, yet he stayed by my side, paying more attention to the conversation than I was.
"When you're downstairs," Evan started carefully...deliberately, "you have the perfect chance to secretly move the Elf without us knowing."
Aaaaaaannnnd here we go.
I won't lie to my kids.
I'll keep the Magic alive until they're ready, until they want to know the Truth.
And then, when they're Ready, I'll tell them.
I took a breath to survey the scene:
It was the week before Thanksgiving; our Elf, Bear Ticklish, hadn't even returned to us yet. Clearly, Evan's wheels have been turning. But Max was right there, his attention rapt. The next words out of my mouth were Important.
But, instead of taking my time...instead of thinking it through...instead of making a plan, I made a snap decision and spoke the words before they even made a quick pass through my brain:
"Yeah, we could move Bear Ticklish," I said with a sideways grin, "but can you really imagine me and Daddy playing with an Elf after you guys go to bed?!"
Evan smiled. Then skipped back to the playroom...back to this Legos and to his deep thoughts.
He still wants to believe.
Maybe I'm just telling myself that to justify my response to his observation...but I think it's true. I think if he had really wanted to know, he would have phrased it as a question: "Do you and Daddy move the Elf after we go to bed?" Instead, subconsciously, he gave me an out. I didn't lie. But I didn't tell him the Truth. I don't think he's Ready.
I know I'm not.
I think his rational brain is working hard to connect the irrational dots, but I think his heart is still in it. And I want his heart to win for as long as possible. I want him to Believe.
But the end is near, I know.
As we were pulling into our driveway after our Thanksgiving weekend away, Evan was undoing the straps of his car seat (my string bean still uses a 5-point harness...see! Still so little!) before the car was even in Park. He ran into the house before the rest of us had unbuckled.
I knew what he was up to:
She can move the Elf at night, but how could she set up the Elf when we were out of town all weekend?!
It was a Test.
And Christmas Magic won.
I walked in to find him standing, motionless, staring at Bear Ticklish...who was right there in our foyer, sitting on a shelf, smiling that creepy smile.
Bear Ticklish, who I had quickly and secretly placed on that shelf while the kids were getting strapped into their car seats on Wednesday morning...
Bear Ticklish, who, for now, will keep the Magic alive....
Do I wait until he asks me, point blank, if Santa is real...and risk anger and resentment over us "tricking" him?
Do I preempt the situation and gently tell him the truth...and risk ruining the Magic before he was really ready?
Do I keep the Magic "alive" forever...and risk my kids going blind of excessive eye-rolling as tweens and teens as they write their "Santa letters?"
Parents who have walked this path before us:
WHAT DO WE DO?