"Mom? I have a question," Tommy said seriously one evening as I told him goodnight.
Oh God. Was he going to ask me something embarrassing? When Tom was in Korea he asked when he'd get hairs on his balls. I almost fell over from shock but I pulled myself together and answered the question. I never want him to feel ashamed on what he asks.
"Sure," I replied. If it were an awkward question, I'd call Tom up. This is his domain. He has the balls, he has the penis, he can answer the boy stuff. Otherwise I'm going to send Natalie to him when she wants to know what the blood in her pants mean. I mean, payback, right?
"Are you and Dad Santa?"
My heart dropped. I knew it was coming. Tommy is 11. He's probably beyond the age of most kids but he's always been so trusting.
"I--"I began. My tongue felt like it was glued to the roof of my mouth. "What do you think?" I always promised myself that I would be honest if he ever inquired about Santa. I thought I'd be able to say, "Yes. We are," no problem. But my heart squeezed a bit. This is because it's another step in my son growing up. Another notch. And soon he'll be in high school, sporting facial hair and wanting to know when he's getting a car. I panic just thinking about it. I'm finally getting over the shock of him being in middle school.
"I think, yes," Tommy admitted.
I swallowed. Cracked my knuckles even though it's a bad habit. "Well, yes, we buy the presents. But the spirit of Santa still lives," I said. "And please, whatever you do, don't tell your sister. She's only 6." I ran my fingers through Tommy's hair. "How are you feeling? You aren't betrayed, are you?"
Tommy gave me a funny look. "Uh, no. Why?"
I rolled my eyes. "Well, there are parents out there who tell their kids right away Santa isn't real for fear that it's lying to their kids or something. I think it's silly but if it's how they want to parent, so be it. Then there are some people who claim they felt betrayed when they found out Santa wasn't real. So are you? Betrayed? Should I call the therapist now?"
Tommy snorted. "Why would I be betrayed? It was a fun thing." He shrugged. "And now I know."
Oh, praise chocolate. No issues. No drama.
He's been great with not telling Natalie. If I talk about Santa around him, he gives me a wide smile when Natalie isn't looking. Like the other night I told Natalie, "Stop your yelling or else Santa won't give you any presents," and Tommy glanced over with a grin. When we went to Bass Pro Shops to see Santa, he said to me in private, "I know he's not real, but he's still a nice man."
So he gets it. He knows Santa isn't real. But he understands the spirit of Santa.
And that's pretty cool.