Many years ago, my wife and I were facing what we thought would be the last Christmas we would have with our younger son believing in Santa Claus. (Our older son had known for about three years by that time. However, under penalty of lack of presents, he had kept his mouth shut.
We had an established pattern of activities for the big day. My younger son and I would begin Christmas Eve by following Santa on the Norad Santa website (www.noradsanta.org), tracking Santa through Asia. We played games on the site, went to early church services, went out for dinner (Chinese, since they’re open), and then I would read The Night Before Christmas to him. Then we would check the Norad Santa tracker one last time as proof of why he should go to bed. We’d give it about an hour and then my wife and I would set out the presents.
The trickiest part was that we’d always set one present next to his bed. In his excitement, my younger son was a light sleeper on Christmas Eve. Getting in and out of his room was a challenge.
Then came that fateful Christmas Eve we feared would be his last. We kept up pretenses as best, dodging questions as they arose. My wife and I got him off to bed and then waited an hour. I brought the gift upstairs.
Then he woke up and caught me.
He immediately headed back to his bedroom, tears streaming from his eyes. I followed him in and asked him what was wrong. He said he’d seen me and knew that Santa Claus didn’t exist. Like any parent, I couldn’t give up yet and tried to lie my way out of it. “I was just moving the gift,” I told him. “Santa was in a hurry and left it at the bottom of the stairs and I was helping Santa out,” I added.
He didn’t believe me. I told him I’d prove it to him. I knew my computer was still up, though I hadn’t looked at the Norad Tracker since my son had gone to bed an hour prior. I flipped to the website.
Per the Norad website, Santa was in “Atlanta, Georgia.”
I couldn’t believe it. The website updates around every five minutes or so with a new city, and I’d opened it up when it said Santa was in Atlanta. My son cheered up, convinced that Santa had just been there. He went back to bed, content as could be. After the next Christmas, his questions arose again and he eventually figured it out. But that was one more year of believing. One more year of dreaming.
One more year of childhood.
Clip art from the Norad Santa website