In early fall, I point out a star and teach my four-year-old daughter to make a wish. “You can wish for whatever you want.”
She wishes for a puppy, and I think it’s adorable.
A few weeks later, my mom points out a star to her and recites:
“Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight”
My daughter shrugs and says, “I don’t believe in wishes on stars.”
I stammered out a WHA?
“I wished for a puppy and didn’t get it. That star-wishing stuff doesn’t work.”
Fast forward to this month and she’s climbing on Santa’s lap. He asks her the requisite question, “What would you like for Christmas?”
My heart drops because I’ve seen the letter.
“A puppy,” she states matter-of-factly.
Santa stammers something about not bringing pets, which I appreciate given we have four cats and a dog, and while we could technically afford to feed and shelter a puppy, I don’t believe we have enough time to give it.
Santa asks again: “What else would you like?”
My daughter squirms off his lap with a firm A PUPPY.
She’s a little girl who loves puppies. She has puppy mittens and puppy shirts and was a puppy for Halloween. She wore a necklace of puppy wearing a santa hat to meet Santa Claus, and every day, no matter what her friends are playing, she joins in as some version of a puppy. Puppy baby. Puppy superhero. Puppy freeze tag.
I begin to do the math: how many stuffed puppies we could buy to overwhelm her disappointment? If we factor in a singing one and a robot one, will it be enough? I enter a terrorized state of my-four-year-old-will-stop-believing-in-the-magic-of-Christmas-maybe-we-should-get-her-a-puppy, but my husband stands firm.
My kids already believe most Santas aren’t real. For my seven-year-old, it’s more the obvious reason: “Why would Santa hang out at the mall when he should be at the North Pole preparing to whip around the world faster than the speed of light?”
But my daughter doesn’t walk that line of fantasy and reality as easily as her brother or myself. When I finally wore my parents down after two years of asking whether Santa was real, I refused to believe them. I accepted that 99% of the gifts were from my parents, but for many years beyond second grade, I confided in my friends that one gift I received my mom thought my dad bought and my dad thought my mom bought, but really Santa brought it to me. I wanted to hold on even when I knew the truth, but now I have this daughter so willing to let go, which makes this puppy an accidental a test of sorts. She’s not actively attempting to prove anything but is her little intuitive mind searching for a reason to not believe? Just like stars, Santa either makes dreams come true or can’t. For whatever reason, she doesn’t have much of a middle way in her.
I already know that this will probably be our last year of both believing as my son will be eight years old next Christmas, and he’s not so great at keeping secrets. Anyway, I’ve never felt terrible comfortable with lying about Santa. And of course, I think it’s okay for kids to not get everything they want on Christmas or in life. But none of these comfort me when I think of my four-year-old daughter unwrapping present after present looking for a puppy and finding instead the death of Santa Claus.