Saturday, December 15, 2012


Last week, I sat in a "holiday" concert at our elementary school. The whole school was invited to hear the rehearsal for the performance taking place that evening for the parents. I watched with Drake, a sweet fourth grade student with glasses and a mischievous grin.

Between two songs, Drake leaned over and whispered to me, "Ms. Bo, do you believe in Santa Claus?"

A whirlwind of thoughts and ideas instantly flooded my brain: Oh my gosh, do I answer him honestly, or is this one of those occasions where it's perfectly acceptable to lie? Does he know? Does he not know? Is this a decent opportunity to let him in on the truth?

"No," I decided upon. "I don't."

"What? How can you not believe in Santa Claus?" his little, high-pitched voice raising in volume.

"Well," I told him, "It's just a story."

Drake sat quietly in his seat as we listened to the violins whine a few notes that constituted a song worthy of much applause.

After the song ended, Drake stated, "Ya know, there was a candy cane explosion at the North Pole?"

Without shifting my gaze from the shuffling students in the clarinet ensemble, "Oh really."

"Well, yeah," he persisted. "That's the truth."


The clarinets belted out a song about a dreidel and a trumpet played out of turn. We clapped.

"Ms. Bo, if Santa isn't real, who brings you presents on Christmas Eve?"

There was no turning back. This was it: "My parents."

Drake sank a little deeper into his chair: "Oh."

Another song began. Another song ended. We clapped. At the end of the concert, I stood up and Drake looked at me smiling: "Ms. Bo, I believe in Santa Claus."

I smiled at him. "Cool. That's perfectly fine."

I came home and told Jeremy about my humorous conversation with Drake about Santa Claus.

"You did what?" he said. "You demolished a little boy's Christmas dreams!"

"Nooo!" I argued. "He had to find out at one time or another. And obviously he knew there was some speculation since he asked if I "believed" in Santa instead of assuming everyone did."

Tsk, tsk, tsk.

I've spent most of my life avoiding little children. They've never been super cute. I've never been the one called to babysit. I've never oohed and ahhed and begged to hold babies. And now, I find myself spending 7 hours a day with six year-olds: tying shoes, resolving childish conflicts. and giving hugs. We share germs and we share cookies. We cheer for masterpieces made of construction paper and we cheer for the alphabet.

The last two months have taught me quite a lot about kids. More than I ever cared to know. And I think they're getting to me. Because I like them. I've stopped setting the kiddos up to adult expectations. I've ceased getting frustrated when they have illogical crying fits and have instead mastered the art of commiseration and conflict-resolution catered to developing brains. It's awfully hard to get upset--after all--with kids like Eli who have big, brown eyes, Vans tennis shoes, and a sweet drawing they made "just for you."

I'm unsure as to what was the "correct" response to Drake's wonderings about Santa Claus. This week, he asked his teacher, "Do you believe in Santa Claus?" And she masterfully responded, "I don't know. What do you think?"

I looked at her with playful frustration, thinking: you would.

I still have much to learn in the realm of appropriate kid responses, but I'm well on my way to greater compassion and tenderness toward these little germ-carrying, emotionally-loaded, energetic, ever-forgiving, and joy-giving kids.