The Elf is off the Shelf

Telling my daughter “the truth” about Santa.

Mal, Gage and mom at the Santa House in Poway last week

Mal, Gage and mom at the Santa House in Poway last week


It started last year with a few neighbors dropping the bomb that they no longer believed. Mal and Gage questioned us relentlessly, and conspired to set up their iPad to capture Santa’s arrival (or catch their parents in the act).


But by the time Christmas arrived, they were back in full magic mode. It seemed obvious that Santa had brought the packages and bags full of just about every wish they had made. Mom and Dad certainly couldn’t afford all of those gifts!


I knew there was a chance the seeds of doubt would re-emerge this holiday season so I prepared by buying Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend, and I re-read Martha Brockenbrough’s letter to her own daughter. She says, in part, “Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.” 


I felt prepared.


And I was right… in November of this year Mallory Jane, age 8 & 3/4, came to my room just before bedtime and asked, “Mom, is Santa real? I really want to know. It’s OK. You can tell me the truth.”




The truth is my heart pounded. I wished my husband was home. I flashed back to my own Christmas sadness the year I knew THE TRUTH and had to pretend for my sister’s sake. I did not want to do it. But she asked me to tell the truth.


Martha Brockenbrough’s daughter might have been soothed by her mom’s explanation that, “It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents, and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.” 


It comforted me to say it, but my daughter had one very important question:

“What about the Elf on the Shelf?”

Then, “The Easter Bunny? The Tooth Fairy?”

As I shook my head, no, the tears began to flow and Mallory Jane, age 8 & 3/4, sobbed, “So there’s no magic anywhere???????????????”

Then I started to cry. But only briefly, because I wanted her to know that every single day of my life I feel magic, and it comes from being her mom, listening to her hopes and desires and finding a way to make her life what we both wish it to be. I feel as excited for Christmas as a mom as I ever did as a child. And that’s the truth!

I’m sure she heard me, and possibly even understood what I was saying. But it wasn’t until I asked Mal if she would like to be in charge of the shenanigans of our elf this year that her tears finally stopped. She went to sleep easily that night.

The next morning, when she came down for breakfast, Mallory Jane announced that she had already dreamed up three places for our elf to move. Then she said, “Mom, I know the elf isn’t real, but can you and I have a secret shopping trip to get a girl elf? I always wanted a girl.”

Yes, of course my darling. And when you have a daughter you can give that elf to her and be her Santa for 8 & 3/4 years or longer…

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A lovely letter to Santa this year

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