My wife and I have taken a stance of allowing him to work through that process. It has been exciting, heart-wrenching and interesting, all at the same time.
However, we were recently confronted with a challenge when we took a train to the North Pole. Yes, we took a train to the North Pole. Haven’t you seen “Polar Express?” It can happen. Or at least, that was the pitch.
My son, who is at a very similar stage of the main character of that very movie, was pondering this “rocket train” covering hundreds of miles in mere minutes and wasn’t buying it.
“How could we get all the way to the North Pole and back again that quickly?” he asked.
“Maybe that tunnel we passed through was a magic tunnel?” I responded with all the enthusiasm I could muster.
With a questioning look on his face, he simply doubtfully responded, “Strange.”
Our first daughter is only 5 and in the midst of the joys and surprises around Christmastime. She squeals in delight at the sight of a gift and does a little happy dance just thinking about tearing into the presents. She is not considering the reality of Santa, only the joy of the season.
Our younger daughter is only 1 1/2 years old and is just figuring out that those wrapped boxes have good stuff inside them. I think she also enjoys the utter freedom of tearing something apart without getting in trouble, another joy of opening presents.
Our two oldest have figured out the Christmas system, making sure Santa is clear on what they want under the tree. Our son has taken the strategy of the boy in the movie “A Christmas Story” in that every opportunity he gets, he tells Santa the one thing on his list, emphasizing the importance of this item (no, it won’t shoot his eye out). While he isn’t 100 percent sure Santa is real, he is taking no chances on keeping him informed.
Our older daughter has taken the complete opposite strategy. Every time she visits Santa (and in today’s world, there are numerous opportunities to sit on Santa’s lap) she introduces him to a new item on her Christmas list, making sure she has a wide variety of gifts on Christmas morning.
Our youngest is intrigued by Santa, but only at a distance. Why are young children almost always afraid of Santa? I mean, it is only a complete stranger in a strange outfit with a big beard who your parents simply hand you over to and walk away. At 18 months old, what is there to be afraid of?
The reality is, this season really isn’t about Santa or presents. It is about a much greater gift. A gift that has given us all a grace we never earned and the forgiveness for our sins by our Holy Father through his son, Jesus. That is the lesson we are teaching our children. That is the focus of the season. That is what we are celebrating, and that is the Christmas spirit.
But it never hurts to tell Santa what you want on Christmas morning ... just in case.
(Editor’s Note: Matt Ryerson has a growing family: his wife, son, two daughters, Tucker the family dog and seven chickens. They would like to wish Cleveland Daily Banner readers a very Merry Christmas! “Father Time” is published in alternating Wednesday editions of the Banner.)