What would you think if your 14-year-old still believed in Santa? That he was pulling your leg? That he was a little naive? That he was going to get his butt kicked on the school bus by some bully?
When a mom recently proudly pronounced that her teenager is still wrapped up in the thrall of Santa, all three went through my mind, and then some. I get why the mom is so proud: I want my (now 7-year-old) daughter to enjoy the magic of childhood for as long as possible. But at what point does it become cruel to let our kids believe a fat guy in a red suit will be flying 'round the world on Christmas Eve?
I look at letting my kid believe in Santa as my gift to her. I am giving her years of childhood magic.
Because Santa is synonymous with childhood, the belief in him must go away at one point or another if we want our kids to grow up.
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There's no specific age, necessarily. No edict that at exactly 11 3/4, a child will cease to believe. But when they have enough science classes under their belt to question how a fat man could shrink down to the size of a flue, all those doubting Thomases in their social group will sway them. They will simply no longer believe.
And it's our job as parents to let that happen. Yes, we hate to see our kids grow up. But pushing our teenagers to continue the belief in Kris Kringle is selfish. It's a sign of a parent who is clinging harder to childhood than their child is.
It's a sign of a parent who has lost sight of what our kids need to survive in the real world. Teenagers need to take on a harder edge, to begin to see through the wonder that has long coated their world. It's the only means to protect them from bullies and beyond: from the pain of war, the knife stick of heartbreak.
Don't kid yourself, parents. A teenager who believes in Santa isn't sweet. It isn't cute.
It's painful. And it's our job as parents to minimize the pain of growing up.
When do you think it's time to stick a pin in the Santa dream?
Image via KristinNador/Flickr