They still hear the bell. As much of an anomaly as it is for 12- and 14-year-olds to still believe in Santa Claus these days, our children still do. Perhaps we’ve done too good a job at hiding gifts and keeping up the lore. One year, Jolly St. Nick appeared in a photo by our Christmas tree with a little Photoshop magic. Even though the younger one suspects, he still puts pen to paper each year to craft his annual letter. The once-dictated correspondences, which later became adorable scribbles, are now written in completely legible handwriting.
Perhaps Zach, our mischievous elf on the shelf, surprised them each morning in poses too silly and antics too unruly to ever leave room for doubt.
Perhaps Kris Kringle’s well-known affinity for sweets is confirmed each Christmas morning by a half-empty mug of milk and mere crumbs left from cookies the kids joyfully baked for him the night before.
Perhaps our tradition of cuddling up to watch “The Polar Express” each year helped give them comfort and security to see the world with immense hope and a loving naivete that only comes with youth.
Looking back at our Christmas photos through the years, it’s amazing to see how they’ve grown. From our first family portrait holding our toddler and infant to our most recent photograph where they’re poised to surpass me in height, God has blessed us more than we could ever deserve.
In a few short years, our daughter will be leaving for college and our son will be in high school. After that, we’ll be joining the brave club of empty nesters who have to find a new normal without the sounds of little ones in their homes.
The real world knocks too eagerly at the door of childhood. The time will come very soon for us to let go of the hands we’ve held so tightly for so many years.
Sharing the truth about Santa will be heartbreaking for all of us, but I pray that our children will know just how much they are unconditionally loved. Perhaps they’ll understand one day when they have kids of their own. Perhaps they’ll have their own elf, their own advent calendars to fill and their own meaningful family traditions.
Wonder isn’t something you can ever put back into the eyes of a child. So, until that day comes when we have to break the news gently, I’m looking forward to one last magical Christmas together with striped jammies, innocent wonder and the sweet sound of a ringing bell. ￼
Opinions expressed in this column are those of Nina Ha.