I knew it would probably be the last year that he would believe.
Coming up far too quickly on 12, he was starting to question the existence of the big man in the red suit. He didn't want to sit on his lap this year, and he didn't ask for anything specific, but there were parts of him that weren't quite ready to give up the belief.
He still helped his sister put out the carrots for the reindeer and cookies and milk. He still carefully hung the stockings so the names showed. He still voiced the hope our dog would get some yummy treats on Christmas morning... still hoping and wanting to believe.
But there was something missing. His eyes and words were missing that holiday sparkle that parents see in their children.
The big morning came and he was happy with his gift and stocking filled with treats, but I could see something more sombre in his mood. All through the day, that expected sparkle seemed dimmed and at dinner he made a comment about how he didn't think Santa is real. Like a parent just knows things, I knew. He knew.
I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready to lose that magic of childhood. I wasn't ready for him to grow up a little more or prepared to explain. I just wasn't ready. But that night I took a big breath and emotionally steeled myself for the talk.
I curled up next to him on his bed and asked what was making him so glum. He didn't say a word. I said, "Is it about Santa?" and he nodded with tears in the corners of his eyes.
He admitted to snooping and discovering the gifts and the truth hit him hard on Christmas morning when those same gifts were under the tree.
He very sadly and quietly said, "Now there will be no more excitement."
I had hoped to get one more Christmas out of him and one more year of believing before preparing him and talking to him about creating the magic for his younger sister. But that was taken away from me and instead I wiped his tears and explained the man in the red suit is only a part of the magic of Christmas.
There will still be stockings and gifts in the morning. The joy and excitement comes from being with family, seeing Christmas lights, watching Christmas movies, and catching snowflakes on our tongue.
Santa is a myth that neither of us were ready to let go of, but life trundles on. I will breathe and embrace the young man that has let this iconic part of his childhood go, and he will breathe and work to acknowledge the notion that his parents were the ones creating a magical experience for him, year after year. He will mourn it too but I will be there to guide him and wipe away his tears.
Because that part of parenting will never end.
Amber Regamey Marsh