This year, we are starting to see the veneer of belief begin to peel away.
It’s always funny when life imitates art. But when life imitates a fantastic cartoon, it is especially remarkable.
As we were spending a little family time watching “The Polar Express” I realized how much my oldest son – who turns nine tomorrow - reminded me of the main character in the movie.
Blake was an only child until our paths crossed with a five-year-old from Ethiopia. During that time, my wife did a great job of keeping the magic of Christmas alive for him in a way that parents with older siblings can’t. He believed in Santa and even was able to enjoy the fun of that creepy little Elf on the Shelf.
But this year, we are starting to see the veneer of belief begin to peel away. He still wants to believe. But he knows. I know he knows. He knows I know he knows. But we are working with each other to continue the storyline in order for him to suspend his disbelief long enough to enjoy the magic of the season – even if he knows the magician has something hidden up his sleeve.
Rather than just enjoying his little Elf on the Shelf, this year Blake is asking him questions and making demands. When the Elf returns to the North Pole every night, Blake has challenged him to prove himself.
In past years, the goofy little doll could have “forgotten” to move a few nights and Blake would have still believed in him. But now, the elf has to answer questions, produce new elves and even to bring him a treat to prove his “elfiness.”
You don’t demand candy from an Elf if you really think he is conversing with Santa every night.
You also don’t take your dad to Walmart the day after you write your letter to Santa at school so that “Santa” would know what all the toys were that were on the list. I’m as hip and cool as the next dad, but keeping track of Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon and Skylanders is not as easy as you think.
I know he has peeked behind the curtain. I know the same kids who teach him curse words he’s never heard at home are also clueing him in on the Jolly old Elf and his cousin from the shelf.
I think Blake would agree with the boy from Polar Express when he says, “I want to believe.” But I think when he shakes the bell, he is only able to hear the jingle occasionally.
Blake is hoping the conductor is right when he tells the children, “Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see.”
But he knows. For now, he is willing to go along. The Elf on the Shelf is fun and even if Santa isn’t real in the truest sense of the word, you get a lot of presents left under the tree on Christmas morning. If I had to pretend to believe in Santa to get my paycheck every other week, I would put out milk and cookies so I could collect the check and pay my bills.
Who doesn’t want a new toy, book or video game? Santa makes it happen, so even if you have trouble believing, you can pull it off one day a year.
He still hears the bell enough to feel the magic. But one day soon, he will stop watching the show and become one of the magicians who keeps the Christmas spirit alive for others.
In the movie, Santa Claus tells the boy, “This bell is a wonderful symbol of the spirit of Christmas - as am I. Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.”
Hopefully it always will.
Kent Bush is the publisher of The Augusta Daily Gazette, The El Dorado Times, and The Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.