First of all, I want to give you kudos for how you handled that screaming kid at the mall the other day. You kept the requisite jolly demeanor and twinkle in your eye, and even though it's probably not going on anyone's Christmas card this year, you went the extra mile to make sure at least one person was smiling in that picture.
The reason I'm writing is because I have some tough news. As you know, our son is 8 this year, and you've probably noticed that you haven't received a letter from him asking for gifts yet. Eight is a very strange and bewildering age for a little boy; not quite a tween, but definitely not a baby. Not quite ready to ride the bus alone, but not sure about how those stuffed animals fit into the picture. He's still got some baby teeth, but his smile is definitely less baby-cheeked-dimply than it was a year or two ago.
Most importantly, he can read. And he can argue. And with those two things has come a skeptical attitude and a desire to see evidence of something before he accepts it as fact. Especially something presented to him by Mom or Dad. It's not really a "trust" issue as much as it's a "I need to see it with my own eyes, and verify it for myself" issue.
You see where I'm going with this.
His dad and I weren't even sure how to broach the topic of Santa and what he plans to ask for for Christmas this year, so we waited until we started hearing him fret over receiving a "lump of coal" in his stocking before we mentioned your name. We're not proud of it, but we admit we were nervous about asking too many direct questions, so we avoided the topic.
I was feeling so desperate that I went to Google and searched for tips. I was dismayed to find out that he's at that age where the magical and fanciful starts to feel less and less plausible, and less necessary for imaginative play. It's good they're developing these critical thinking skills, the Internet says.
In short, Santa, it's not you. It's me. Or rather, it's him.
Our 8-year-old might be breaking up with you. I'm hoping we can let you down easy, and part on good terms.
I'll admit it: His dad and I are nowhere near ready for him to be done with Santa, because that means our baby really isn't a baby anymore. And the incentive for good behavior is powerful: Few things are more dreaded by our child than Santa thinking ill of him.
The funny thing is, we weren't totally on board with the whole concept of Santa to begin with. It seemed like an awful lot of work to perpetuate a story that was only going to lead to disappointment for the little guy. I'm honestly not sure where he first heard about you; it was around age 4 or 5.
Remember that Christmas Eve letter he left you with snacks for both you and the "raindeer"? Too cute.
I remember that year well, because he was savvy enough to reject Mom's suggestion that Santa might like a Heineken instead of a glass of milk (he didn't think beer would go well with the chocolate chip cookies we made). But he was also sweet-natured enough to be worried that no other kids were going to think about Rudolph and Dasher and the rest of the team. "They're really doing all the work, Mom," he pointed out.
But the questions are there this year, even if he's not asking them directly. "It's amazing that Santa can make that trip around the world in just one night!" and "Reindeer must be really strong."
When we stopped by your workshop for a picture the other day, he was very excited to see you, even to sit on your lap. And when he recently lost another baby tooth, he immediately assumed that the Tooth Fairy would be compensating him, as usual. So you and she are still on board, for the time being (I should note that the Tooth Fairy ponied up an unprecedented $2 for one tooth).
Once he turns 9, though, Santa, I think we're probably not going to seek your help at Christmas any more. You've probably seen the last letter from him. If you ever need a reference, I'd be more than happy to sing your praises, because you definitely have done well by my child. He will have nothing but the fondest memories of you and all the toys you left under the tree. I'll make sure of it.
Give my best to Mrs. Claus and all the reindeer and elves and staff at the North Pole. Thanks for all the hard work, Santa. We appreciate it. But I think we have to take it from here.
Kim Lyons is digital news editor for the Post-Gazette (firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1241).