A few days ago, while I was hibernating in my room pretending I don’t have kids, Mac walks in with Ava behind him, looking rather serious.
My first thought was “Why are you annoying me in my time of need?” But I was more curious.
He sits on the edge of the bed (I was in bed, DUH) and says very seriously “Ava has something she needs to tell us.”
Oh holy mother of god.
I’m thinking horrible, crazy sick things. I’m thinking abusive teachers. I’m thinking twisted neighbors. I’m sure I’ve finally really completely blown it and she is now going to tell me that when I’m not around she listens to Nick Drake and tries to drown kittens.
I don’t freaking know. I went nuts.
In my head.
But I held it in, because obviously I want every detail of what the bastard did to her, so I say “what is it, sweetie?” in my most supportive, non-homicidal, non-freak-out voice.
She’s standing nervously with her hand partially covering her mouth, her eyes kind of imploring.
She shifts her body weight. I look at Mac. I’m ready to hunt the fucker down and remove his boy parts.
Mac’s with me. I can tell.
I ask again.
She looks at me and says very slowly… “Well, I didn’t want to tell you this, but I felt kind of ‘icky’ inside, like I was keeping something from you…”
And at this point I am SURE my life is about to change and it ain’t gonna be good. I mean our family is open like a parachute, we never have “side” conversations – nothing’s sacred, nothing’s personal – we pretty much just say whatever it is we’re thinking and hope for the best, no matter who is in the room. I realize this may not be the optimal communication dynamic, but it’s the way it is. So the fact that Ava wanted this discussion in private indicated DISASTER.
But by now my heart had just swelled and I wanted to grab her up and keep her with me for, well, forever. I could tell she was really struggling with something, and what she was about to tell me had been in her head and heart for a long time.
I tell her “no worries, Ava, what’s wrong?”
And she says, “Well, the thing is…I didn’t want to say this in front of Rocket, and I hope you don’t get upset…but…well…I know Santa isn’t real. I know you guys are Santa.”
There is a God!
She knows Santa isn’t real!
Mac and I smiled at each other, as my guts returned to their appropriate locations.
Then Ava says “I still want to pretend I don’t know Santa isn’t real, so that Rocket doesn’t know, and I’ll keep playing along for him, okay? But I wanted you to know so that I didn’t hold that secret inside. It felt funny having it in there.”
As I sat there watching her speak this little truth in what must have required a big dose of bravery, I was struck by her courage and her poise, her integrity, to face us and risk hurting our feelings – in the interest of truth.
Look, I know my kid isn’t perfect. I know she probably isn’t even phenomenal, though every ounce of my being tells me she’s the most spectacular child on the planet.
But sometimes our children have abilities that blow our minds. When I was a kid, I remember knowing Santa wasn’t real for many years, and I had no idea how to “handle” it. I couldn’t tell my mom. I pretended like I didn’t know but I felt like a fraud. At the same time, I liked pretending. It was fun. I thought it was what I was supposed to do. But at the same time, I felt awkward because I knew the truth…so I just wrestled with this until I eventually outgrew it.
Not this one. She saw the situation, felt her feelings and knew exactly how to handle it.
She set herself free.
I hugged her and told her she was amazing and that she could help us (like an insider Santa team) and we laughed and it was over.
And I was proud of her.
Some kids make an excellent case for nature over nurture, cause jeez, that kid’s got some moves I can’t even fake.