August 14, 2014

Personal Truths

Who is that masked man?
As you are probably aware, I a big believer in being honest with my kids. Most of the time.

And as my children have gotten older (Today, my almost-five year old told me, 'When I was a little kid I didn't know so many things.') they have become more inquisitive, and have longer memories.

And they remember my lies.

Recently? Santa Claus. Somehow, the topic of Santa Claus came up. SI was so excited to talk about Santa. "Santa gave me my velveteen rabbit!" she said, over and over.

And I got really uncomfortable.

Because I gave her that rabbit. And Santa isn't real. And it's starting to feel like a REAL lie, and not a cute lie.

So you can imagine how welcome it was yesterday when they insisted on wearing their sundresses, "From the Easter Bunny!" and wanted to talk all about it.

I grunted instead of answering a bunch of questions, but SI and DD... they're sharp kids. They figured out I was being evasive pretty quick. And then they asked me...

"Mommy? When you were a little girl, did the Easter Bunny give YOU pretty dresses?"

I sighed, and my mind raced through all the borderline heated discussions my husband and I have had about whether or not Christmas is secular and who Santa is and where our religious backgrounds meet and diverge.

"No, honey. The Easter Bunny never gave me things."

"But... why?"

There is was. There were two honest answers, and I was going to have to give at least one of them.

"The Easter Bunny doesn't bring things to Jewish children," I began. But the children pointed out to me that I was obviously wrong.

"The Easter Bunny brings things to US, and WE'RE Jewish."

"Well, that's because Daddy's not Jewish, he's Christian."

They frowned at me. This didn't make any sense. I knew it as well as they did.

"Look," I said, sitting on the floor and trying not to sweat. "The Easter Bunny wasn't real for me when I was a little girl. But the Easter Bunny is real for you because Daddy makes it real for you. Just like Daddy makes Santa real for you. When I was little, Santa and the Easter Bunny weren't real for me, because my whole family is Jewish, so we didn't have Easter or Christmas. But because Daddy is Christian, you have Easter and Christmas, and the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus."

SI accepted this, and launched into a monologue about how she photobombed everybody's pictures of the Easter Bunny this year, which she definitely did. But DD wasn't sure this whole situation made sense.

"Santa's not real for you?" she asked.

Is it Santa? Or Uncle Robot in a wig?
"No, honey. Not for me."

Her eyes filled with what could only be sympathy. "And the Easter Bunny? He's not real for you?"

"No, sweetie. He's not."

"But he's real for me and SI? And RH?"

"Daddy makes him real for you. Does that make sense?"

She nodded, but not like she meant it. And that was the end of the conversation.

For now.

To be honest, these questions are easier than the ones I really want to avoid. "What are you watching?" while I stream footage from Ferguson, or "Why are you crying?" while we watch Night at the Museum.

It's hard to know how little control we have in the world, how little we can dictate what our kids see and feel, and what the world will do to them. And lying feels wrong, some days more so than others.

Some days, the idea of lying to my kids that Santa is in any way real hurts me to my core, makes me feel the bitterness of exclusion and the smug superiority of being right when somebody else is just plain wrong. And I don't like those feelings.

And some days, I love thinking about the little things I do at Christmas to make Santa real for them. Because despite being the Jewish parent, it's mostly fallen on me. I pick out the gifts. I fill their stockings when they aren't there. I coordinate with friends to come by in their Santa suits and read a story with my ecstatic children. And I take pride in seeing them so happy, and their joy brings me joy.

But the truth is pretty much always preferable to lies.

So what is mommy watching? "Mommy is watching the police, who we know are supposed to be good guys, shooting rubber bullets at people who just want to know why they hurt somebody."

Why is mommy crying? "Because there's a man in this movie who was a wonderful person, and he died, and it makes me sad."

Those truths hurt more than whether or not Daddy makes Santa real ever could.

I think I can let them hold onto that lie a little bit longer.

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