Santa's Little Skeptic

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My 7-year-old daughter is a natural-born skeptic. When we saw "Mary Poppins" on stage, she was the kid in the audience who screamed out "I see the wires!" So it wasn't really a surprise this spring when she pulled us aside and said apologetically, "Mommy, Daddy, I'm sorry but I don't believe in the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny just isn't scientific and I can't believe in anything that isn't scientific." But this is Santa-season and rare is the child that doesn't want to believe in Santa.

Family movie night this week was "The Polar Express." It tells the story of a little boy who goes on an adventure to the North Pole where he eventually meets Santa himself. Santa gives the boy a sleigh bell so he can always remember, always believe. As the boy grows up, one by one the people in his life stop hearing the sleigh bell as they stop believing in Santa. But the boy never forgets. He can always hear the bell.

After the movie I tucked my daughter into bed and lay down next to her for snuggles. When everything was calm she rolled over to me and whispered, "Daddy, do you believe in Santa?"

And there it was, the toughest question I've ever had to answer as a parent.

I love that my daughter is a thinker. I want to celebrate it, to encourage it. But at the same time I believe that childhood should be filled with a healthy dose of magic, and I certainly don't want my children to grow up any faster than they already are.


My little skeptic's heart wanted to believe, but her head was pulling her in a different direction, and she was asking me which direction she should go.

I laid there a moment, afraid my silence was an answer in itself. I remembered seeing in the corner of her bedroom a musical toy -- a Velcro wrist strap with sleigh bells on it. Without answering I rose up from our snuggles, picked up the sleigh bells and brought them back to her bedside. Kneeling down I kissed her on the forehead and asked "Can you still hear the bells?"

"Yes," she answered.
"So can I."
That was enough for her.

With a Perspective, I'm Sam Christensen.

Sam Christensen is a teacher, blogger and practicing dentist in Aptos.