The world according to children writing their Santa letters
There is a reason why this is the most magical time of the year. And it isn't what you think...
We spent 20 minutes discussing whether or not Santa can deliver live animals and I’m not proud to say that it got pretty heated. “Maya got a real bunny last year!” they bleat incessantly from the backseat of the car, as I warn them not to waste one of their wishes asking for a pet.
Silently cursing Maya’s incredibly kind mother, I explain patiently that we get what we get and we don’t get upset.
We crank up the festive tunes when we are home and prepare our workstation, aka the kitchen table for this evening’s important task. Mission Santa Lists.
Smyths Annual, check.
Ridiculously expensive Santa pencils/Santa paper/Santa stickers, check.
French Fancies (for sustenance), check.
And then the questions start.
Why does Smyths make the presents, I thought Santa did? Why doesn’t Santa just bring the poor children money or a house? Why do some kids put their letters up the chimney and we post ours? How does the postman know where exactly Santa’s house is? Why are there so many Santas in supermarkets? Why did the LEGO still have a price tag on it last year? How is Santa the same one you had when you were little? Why doesn’t he give you gifts?
My brain is slow, I have a report due, the laundry mountain looms, dinner-that-is-not-waffles needs cooking and never-ending life admin is constantly swallowing me whole.
I stare at their little faces blankly for a bit and then shrug… magic, I guess.
They seem satisfied. But my eldest (9) is slumped protectively over her neatly-written letter. Later she will slip it quickly into the envelope, seal it and ask to post it immediately. I fear this is a test.
‘What did you ask for?’ I say breezily. ‘I’m not telling anyone except Santa,’ she replies with a tweeny toss of her hair.
Meanwhile, middle child needs a second page. “We can’t be greedy,” I remind him gently. But he is too busy trying to spell things like Scalextric and Minecraft Robo-Drone to hear anything my nagging voice is telling him.
As they sit there engrossed, concocting reasons why they’d been so good, I remind myself to lap all this up, to absorb their precious innocence and trust and quick-to-laugh fun. For all the elaborate expectations and seasonal hype around this time of the year, a chocolate coin would as easily make their heart soar. Love and happiness comes easy to them now.
They chew their reindeer pencils and draw wobbly holly boughs and write things like ‘cute dolly pram’ and ‘really fast kite’ and my heart aches because this moment is so fleeting, it is almost moving.
And it’s not just about Christmas, it is the way they believe everything I tell them, the way they think I’m amazing (most of the time), the way they seem to trust everything I say. That responsibility breeds a vulnerability that is sometimes mesmerising.
It is also coming to an end. Soon they will be told that magic isn’t real and that their mum and dad aren’t king and queen of their world. They will learn about things like doubt and mistrust — the not-so-great-things as well as the great. That’s part of growing up and out.
I remember receiving their delicate Baby’s First Christmas Baubles when they were each born. We still have them; three dangly shimmer-balls with their birthdate adorned in glitter calligraphy. They place them proudly on the tree each year.
There is no Baby’s Last Christmas equivalent. Maybe you are not supposed to ever acknowledge the moment when the magic fades slightly Maybe Christmas is a symbol of the suspension of all that realism — a once-yearly homage, a chance to revisit those lispy, sugar-baby days when every star in the sky is a sleigh.
For now, I’m deep in it. I breathe in their childish joy like an addict.
“Don’t say from Bobby, say love from Bobby,” my four-year-old scolds her brother with a tone she can only have learnt from me. “Santa will much prefer that.”
Her list is a series of squiggly drawings of the cute pram, a surprise and chocolate – “I’ll share it with you and Daddy.”
Enjoy every moment, people tell us constantly. These are the best years. So I concentrate on them, studying their funny micro-expressions, learning by heart the way their hair fans across their faces, the way they look up in nonchalance to ask a question, entirely confident I will always have the answer.
Then suddenly the lists are done, we wrap up against the windy night to post our crumpled creations, but not before I sneak a quick peek at my daughter’s letter.
Generation Doll Vet Clinic.
A surprise for my mum and dad.
It wasn’t suspicion, it was her secret gift to us.
A gift money can’t buy.
Here’s to another still-magical-year.
(And does anyone please have a spare snow machine I could borrow?)
This article was originally published in December 2021.