In one fell swoop I knocked out the possibility of fantastical beasts, magic and Santa…and I hadn’t intended to do any of that. Before you dismiss me as that mom who is WAY too literal about being honest with her children about everything, know that I hadn’t set out to ruin Christmas.
My 4 year old is currently obsessed with unicorns. Obsessed. I don’t know how she has picked up on that trendy obsession because we don’t have tv/cable with commercials, but we do venture outside of the house and she has friends, so….here we are, unicorns are everything.
One day she asked me if she could ride a unicorn. I’m not one to rain on anyone’s imagination parade, but I also know how literal my little sensitive soul is, and if I tell her she can ride a unicorn and then we start to flesh out the logistics and it comes out she cannot in fact ride a unicorn….it’s just not worth it to me.
So, I explained that unicorns are really fun to think about, to pretend about, but that they don’t actually exist. She was shocked, and I wasn’t sure if I was navigating these new waters in the best way, but I went with my gut and I continued by encouraging her to pretend about unicorns, draw them, read books about them, but also know that she can’t ever see one in real life because they don’t exist outside of stories. She seemed totally good with this. Her imagination continues to blossom, she is going to be a unicorn for Halloween and I don’t think I have crushed her spirit. Felt like a win to me.
Then it happened. She asked me if I remembered telling her that it’s fun to think about unicorns, but they don’t exist. I said I did, but in my mind my thoughts were racing, did I ruin her childhood, why couldn’t I have just said yes unicorns are real when she asked me a couple weeks ago. Maybe they just hide from humans and that’s why she can’t ride one, or maybe they live really far away…so many options, why hadn’t I thought of this?? Before I could continue drowning in this pool of despair and panic she asked if the same logic applied to Santa. My four year old said, “Is it the same way about Santa Clause. Fun to think about but not real?”
Wait, what? Why is she asking me this? Did some little punk at school tell her Santa isn’t real? Is she just super smart and making connections…I’m so proud of her…wait, focus, this is bad…what do I say? Let me just dive back into my pool of panic.
It took too long to answer. I was sweating. Why couldn’t I just tell her Santa is real. Easy peasy. I could have said, “No, the same logic does not apply. Santa is real…in our hearts” or something vague like that.
I don’t know why I didn’t say that, but I didn’t. Instead, I said, “Correct. Same logic. Santa isn’t real, but he sure is fun to think about and read about.”
Whaaaat did I just say? Words were out of my mouth before I could stop them. I never intended to be that mom. You know, the one who sucks the joy out of childhood and now has a ticking truth bomb of a preschooler who could at any moment lay down some unwanted details to a friend about the truth behind Santa. Now she was going to be that punk at school who ruins Santa for some sweet, dear child.
I mentally start to back pedal and was trying to articulate a way to change my first answer without sounding totally bonkers, but before I could formulate a plan Grace jumps in with, “well, I like the idea of unicorns AND Santa, they’re so nice and fun, so I say they’re real! Ok, mommy?”
Oh thank you, thank you sweet 4 year old logic and soul. I enthusiastically told her, “YES!!! that’s a GREAT idea. That’s PERFECT. Let’s say they’re real!!!” Crisis averted. I think. Thank goodness Grace can parent herself.
Fingers crossed I didn’t ruin Christmas. Or unicorns. Or anything else fun.