I Still Believe

I meant to post this in December but the days got away from me. 


This has been a challenging year for us.

My boys will be starting at their third school since August after the holidays.We up and left Georgia in November, having only had a little over two weeks’ notice to do so, to move north to Virginia and start our new life. My husband’s military career is ending and it’s scary for all of us because, after ten years with the military, we’ve forgotten how to be a normal civilian family. I’ve been out for four years and still have a hard time fitting in, finding a place.

I’m both veteran and military spouse, but the prospect of having to figure out my own health care for the first time in a decade scares the beans out of me.

My oldest is 7 this year. And he’s bright and outgoing and creative and always taking things apart and figuring out how to put things together to create new things. He’s the kid that does really well in school academically but is constantly being reprimanded for talking when he’s not supposed to or playing when he’s supposed to be working quietly or drawing pictures of the elaborate stories he creates in his head when he’s supposed to be doing something else. He can’t sit still to save his life, and I swear to you I’ve been telling him to “keep all four legs on the ground” when he’s sitting in a chair for at least four years now. (I don’t see it stopping anytime soon.)

He’s got the appetite of a teenager and is starting to talk back like one, too. He’s in the whole gotta-get-the-last-word-in phase. I’m constantly questioning my role as his mom when he acts like he’s spoiled. I don’t try to spoil him but I must have gone there somewhere along the way because he will whine about material things and the fairness of not getting what he wants. So I’m constantly trying to figure out how to sort of gently urge him in the other direction, to appreciate what he has instead of coveting what he does not. (It’s a tricky line to walk, let me tell you.)

But he’ll hold the door for you if you happened to be behind him at the store, even if he doesn’t know you. It bothers him when other kids are sad, or when animals are hurt. He’ll have a short outburst of anger at someone for eating animals but bacon is one of his favorite foods. (He’s still figuring out what he wants.) He is my social butterfly which confounds me considering I’m undeniably introverted. And as he so proudly told me last week, “Mom, guess what? I asked someone to marry me.” Big toothless grin and all. It took me a few moments to figure out how to respond to that one. (BTW She hasn’t given him an answer. Phew.)

He’s 7. He’s not a bad kid, by any means, even though he signs the “behavior book” at school at least once every other day or so. Now, I am biased, but anyone who knows him will tell you: he’s a good kid.

We’ve been basically living in a hotel for the last six weeks while we do the whole home-buying dance. (The end is in sight. We think.) It’s been super stressful because of me. I had a seizure two days after we arrived, and State law says I’m not allowed to drive for a certain period of time, so because of that, I couldn’t take the job I had lined up. Losing that income cost us our first mortgage pre-approval.

It’s been one helluva charade since then. My new mortgage representative has told me “this is the last thing we need” so many times I just laughed at her on the phone yesterday when she said it again. We may be closing on our house next week, or we may have to stay here in the hotel a little bit longer. I can’t say.

Being confined to this space with a mom who can’t drive in a county with no crosswalks (literally – I didn’t even know that was a thing) and a dad who has to work extra hours to make up all the work he misses being the family taxi is tough on two little boys.

My boys are troopers. Yes, we get on each other’s nerves. We’re human.

Every year since he was two or three I’ve created special video messages from Santa for him through Portable North Pole. At first, I just did the free basic videos but seeing the magic reflect in his eyes when he watched them made me a repeat visitor. When my youngest came along, I started one for him, too. Now they each get one and I still see the magic in their eyes when Santa talks to them.

My oldest is starting to ask questions. I know it won’t last forever and eventually (hopefully later rather than sooner) he’ll ask me that question many parents dread: “Are you Santa?”

Every night since around Thanksgiving, our bedtime story has been The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn. I first read the story years ago, around the time I became a mom. I fell in love with the tale and gave copies of it for Christmas the following year to family and friends. So each night, here in the hotel, after pulling out the sofa bed and tucking them in for the night, I settle on my bed and read another chapter, sometimes two, until the boys fall asleep. The book explains how the whole idea of Santa Claus started and how it spread around the world. They’ve learned where he was born and who he was as a young man and why he left Turkey. One of the most important things I hope they take from the story so far is that Saint Nicholas’s gift-giving inspired so many people that others started doing it, too, giving him credit for it even though he wasn’t there. (Learning a little bit about history in a fun way isn’t too bad, either.)

This year, my message to them is that Santa always gives second chances. Always.

Santa is more than just a figment of our holiday imagination. So when my son asks me if he’s real, I’ll be ready. ‘Of course, he is,’ I’ll say. ‘He’s the reminder to us all that there is more to Christmas than the number of presents under our own tree. Even if he can’t physically be the one to bring them all, it’s because of him we pass on the magic that comes from showing someone how much they are loved.’


See you next Christmas, Santa.




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