Recently, my four kids and I were on a forty-five minute jaunt up to my sister’s place for a visit. It had been a peaceful trip — no arguing about what music to play, no incessant poking, no — I’m not whining! You just did. No, I didn’t, and so on. It was one of those moments where I was perfectly happy and content to be a mother, and then…,
“THERE’S NO SANTA??!!”
Screech! This eruption (coming from my second-grader in the backseat) swooped down and annihilated all prior forms of contentment, setting off a chaotic chain of events ranging from hysteria to frenzy; me, swerving toward the sidewalk, my kindergartener screaming, “What?! What did he say about Santa?” Tears were flowing, teeth were gnashing, and at least one person (me?) started to hyperventilate.
I righted the car and collected my thoughts, trying to decide if it was time to just ‘fess up. Let’s see — no more special wrapping paper, no more checking NORAD for updates on Santa’s whereabouts, and no more tip-toeing around after the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve? Hmmm…..? My older daughters made the decision for me.“It’s just a book, buddy.” “Yeah, don’t worry about it.”
And, with those two sentences from two girls too old to believe, peace was restored just as we pulled into my sister’s driveway.
Still, I couldn’t dismiss the fact that a book was the culprit for this outburst. I glanced in my rearview mirror hoping to spy what evil piece of literature was tainting my seven-year-old’s innocence. I expected to see a cover depicting a half-dressed floozy with eyes half-shut. Instead, I saw a worn and familiar favorite — Superfudge, by Judy Blume. My son had recently discovered, “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” and (until now) had been laughing his way through the rest of the “Fudge” books. I had been so pleased that he was loving a book that I had loved, that, oops — forgot about that Santa part.
This is how it happens for many kids, I think. They read a book, and discover something that maybe they’re not ready to learn, or, more accurately, that their parents aren’t ready for them to learn, yet. Besides the usual mixture of knowledge that we gain from books, there’s a lot of that “other” stuff, too — “worldly” knowledge, I’ll call it. The “Santa revelation” is one of the tamest examples.
I know that I found out most of that “other stuff” from book pages rather than from my parents. In my happy, Catholic, middle-class home, worldly discussions consisted of my mom saying, “If you ever do that, it will kill me!” as she pointed to the TV screen when her favorite soap opera was on. Yes, I found out a lot of things from books.
I learned about bust increasing exercises and periods from Are you There God, It’s me Margaret? (again, by Miss Blume). About incest, and all things icky from Flowers in the Attic, and other works by V.C. Andrews. About various undisclosed “activities” from a smartly funny and naughty book, Virgins (Caryl Rivers). About drugs, and money, and the privileged life in Bret Easton Ellis’s, Less Than Zero. And, probably the most important piece of worldly knowledge — that there is ALWAYS a smart twin and fun twin, and they’re always smokin’ hot (Sweet Valley High books).
Whether you agree with the whole Santa charade or not, I think most would concede that sometimes information gets into hands that aren’t quite mature enough to hold it. Still, I would never begrudge that time of discovery, or a voracious appetite to read, and learn, and digest. And, after the shock wears off, we are enriched, indeed.
*Find me on Twitter @amandahoving