I distinctly remember the day my world fell apart. The day when everything I believed in, and thought I believed in, crumbled into nothingness.
It was the day I found out there was no Santa.
It was a December afternoon and I was having a conversation with my mother about the upcoming holiday festivities. We were eating rugulah, the sweet pastry melting in our mouths, when I stated that I was going to write a letter to the Jolly Old Man asking for new soccer gear. My mother stopped mid-bite, looked me in the eye, astounded, and uttered the unfathomable:
Wait, Santa? You do know there is no Santa, right?
No, mom, I didn’t.
What transpired was me saying I needed a moment, me getting up from my chair in the kitchen, and me hibernating on a futon in the bedroom, silent tears wetting my pillow.
A bit much, you say? Did I overreact? Maybe. But consider this: I was in the third grade. Eight-years-old. For eight years of my life I believed that there was really a rotund man in red who flew around the world in one night, dropping off presents to all of the good boys and girls in the world. I truly believed this with my whole heart, and so to have this unshakable truth be uprooted, it left me empty.
This monumental memory has led me to question many of the other beliefs I have: What makes a “good mother”? What makes a “good teacher”? What character traits to I subscribe to a “good son” or “good daughter”? How have those ideals been shaped? And what happens if those ideals become uprooted like my Santa belief?
Obviously, my perception of what constitutes all these monikers have been formed from my own experiences as a child to my parents, mother to my children, teacher to my students, and student to my teachers. I expect that within thirty-seven years of existence, there will be a time when a strong belief I held as an eight, nine, even twenty-year old will suddenly be shattered. The question remains, what belief then takes its place?
Going even deeper, here is another rumination that has been running through my mind: There are numerous thoughts, worldviews, and opinions I have about everything from parenting to teaching to adulting that I HAVE NO IDEA ARE INDIVIDUALIZED TO ME. My world seems complete, fine, grand, and dandy, and I assume that others will understand my circumstances as a parent, wife, teacher, and weightlifter because those are titles that many hold and can identify with. Yet no one else can truly experience my world the way I do. I can parent a toddler, my friend can parent a toddler, my husband can parent a toddler, yet even if we all raise said child the exact same way, we will each have different views and experiences.
This is crazy to me.
Case in point: I grew up loving to write and read. I filled journals every summer with poetry. As an elementary school kid they were haikus about koalas and soccer. In high school they were embarrassingly awful poems about unrequinted love. Regardless of whether or not these poems were noteworthy, I couldn’t wait to open up a page of my journal, put pen to paper, and write. I assumed that all teenagers loved creating prose and poems just as much as me. There was something therapeutic and lovely about seeing my words on a page. But then I met my husband and I was aghast. The man did not write. In fact, when I spoke about T.S. Eliot and Longfellow, I was met with a blank stare. Who dat??? Since I loved the written word, I automatically assumed everyone else did too. Unbeknownst to me, I am the oddity who willingly edits friends’ dissertations because I just LOVE READING AND WRITING.
As my children grow older, and I, too, age along with them, I wonder what ideals and values they will take to heart and which ones will fall by the wayside. I also wonder which ideals and values I believed in for years on end will become eclipsed as the wrinkles by my eyes grow deeper and my hair starts to grey (so far, no white hairs, praise God!). It’s amazing to me how God continually keeps me on my toes, challenging old views I held and bringing new ones into my sight.
And for my daughter and son, I want to see what their experience, their values, their views of the world are. They can tell me what they see as true and right and grand, but in the end, their experience is THEIR EXPERIENCE. As their mother, it is a bit sad to know that I can never be “in their shoes” because no matter how much I want to feel and see what they feel and see, I can never be THEM.
So I await the day when my kids realize that there is no Santa. Will they cry when they know that he is really a made-up character? Will they already have had the secret spoiled by friends at school? Will they not really care that St. Nick is a figment of fiction? Only time will tell.