It's been the topic of many whispered conversations between me and my fellow parents-of-9-year-olds this year: How much does your kid Know? And yes, sometimes we're comparing our kids' notes on puberty, sex, and the biology of babies being born...but more often than not, we're talking Magic.
There's just something about 9-year-olds, I suppose. The schools have deemed them ready for "The Puberty Video," (which they showed at the end of the last day of school before Thanksgiving Break, leading to a number of interesting Thanksgiving Dinner conversations!) And, similarly, many of us parents-of-4th-graders have found ourselves, at some point over the past year, face-to-face with our not-so-little kids asking to be told The Truth about holiday magic.
Our Day of Truth happened last March, on St. Patrick's Day. At the time, I felt as though I handled the conversation well. Evan certainly didn't seem traumatized or disappointed with his new knowledge. And rather than mourning the loss of his innocence, I was actually really looking forward to this year...our first Post Knowing Christmas. I was excited to have his eager help with the elf and, to be honest, a Christmas morning "Thank You" directed at me and Sam rather than shouted toward the ceiling would be pretty awesome. (A mom can dream, right?) And so, right after Thanksgiving, when our elf, Bear Ticklish, arrived, I pulled Evan aside.
To his wide-eyed, solemn face, I whispered, "It's time, buddy! Time to help make the magic for Max and Molly! Are you ready?"
He nodded, slowly. Unsurely. I was a bit confused by his deer-in-headlights reaction. I dropped the issue until bedtime.
After we were sure the littlest were asleep, I went to retrieve Evan from his bed.
"Put your book down for a minute! It's time!"
We tiptoed downstairs to where Bear Ticklish sat on the shelf.
Evan stared at the elf. I looked down at my big boy.
He didn't move a muscle.
"Go ahead, buddy!" I urged.
"So.....what do you do?" Evan asked.
I furrowed my brow a bit and said, "Well, what do you mean? You make the magic!"
"You...move him." I said, as I started to sweat.
"Um...yes." Wait. What?! I thought we were all clear here. Hadn't we discussed this? Hadn't we talked about how Daddy and I make the magic and that, now that you know the truth, YOU are going to help us make the magic, too?!
"So. Like. With my hands?"
Oh my god.
"I. Like. TOUCH HIM?!"
What have I done?!
"Um, yeah, buddy. Remember? Remember what we talked about? Daddy and I and now YOU help make the magic for Max and Molly. Remember?"
Please tell me you remember. Please tell me I didn't just blow this for you.
"No, yeah! I know! I just...I can't believe I get to see what he feels like!"
Okay. Deep breath. We're good. He knew.
He moved the elf and has continued to do so most nights. He seems to enjoy it, and he plays it so cool in the mornings. "Man, guys," he'll say to Max and Molly as they all wander from room to room, looking. "I just can't seem to find him anywhere."
But, it occurred to me that we should tread very lightly with The Truth this year. His Knowing seems so blurry...so incomplete...like he's trying to put a puzzle together, but doesn't have all of the pieces yet. I want him to find the pieces on his own...I don't want to just hand them all over to him if he's not ready to see the whole picture yet.
I'm so glad we did.
Last week he came home from school, abuzz with information to share.
"MOM! You'll never guess what the guys in my class were talking about!"
True. A bunch of 9- and 10-year old boys? I didn't want to guess what kind of stories they were telling.
"So there was this team of explorers exploring around the Arctic and, all of a sudden, one of the explorers bumped into this invisible wall! Like a force field or something! And they were talking it over with the other explorers and they think it might be the secret entrance to the REAL North Pole! Now all they have to do is find the secret handle on the entrance and, voila!, we'll know all of Santa's secrets!"
I stared at him. "Wow," was all I could say. Was he putting on this act for the little kids? They were both staring at him, too, mouths agape. No. He's good, but he's not That good. "Can you imagine?" I responded, turning to look at their homework folders to hide my expression.
"Yeah!" he said as he skipped away to the play room. "Wouldn't it be awesome to really Know?"
Baby steps toward knowing the truth, I suppose. I'm more than okay with that.