To the Parents Thinking This Might Be Their Last Christmas in the Magic Years

written by KATHY SISSON
christmas magic years"
christmas magic years
Source: Social Squares
Source: Social Squares

You know those parenthood moments you want to bottle up? The ones where you beg your brain to please, please keep this moment as a core memory? Last Christmas morning, after our family flocked downstairs around 6 a.m., I had one of those moments. My kids were greeted by a pile of gifts, and I watched my 9-year-old strategize which gift from Santa to open first. While her younger sister immediately went for the biggest, I could tell my oldest was sizing up the packages and delaying the gratification of opening the present she thought was from the top of her list. She chose a small book-shaped gift and took her time slowly unwrapping it.

Watching her careful evaluation of each gift brought me back to my own childhood. I was in a wood-paneled family room under the glow of colored Christmas lights, my parents in their robes, and my brothers and I were giddy with anticipation as my dad set up the camcorder. I used to do the same thing my daughter did. I’d stare at my gifts, choosing which ones were best opened first and which ones would extend my excitement on Christmas morning.

This year, with a 10- and 7-year-old, I’m acutely aware this could be the last holiday with the full-fledged Christmas magic. At any moment, a comment from a friend or an accidental peek at our Amazon purchase history could send the whole thing spiraling. I feel as if I’m teetering on a parenting precipice. I’m looking back over my kids’ early childhood and wondering whether I made enough Christmas magic to sustain traditions they might pass onto their own kids someday. And I hope these Christmas morning memories stay with them the same way mine have, wood-paneled living room and all—especially because I know my time parenting in “the magic years” is slipping away. 

What Are “The Magic Years?”

Coined by child development expert Selma Fraiberg, the “magic years” peak in preschool when imagination soars. During this time, kids don’t need proof to believe something exists, they just need to imagine it and, poof, it’s real. The magic years have helped the Santa story survive for centuries because, for many young kids, it is 100 percent possible.

christmas magic years
Source: @thelittleislandyogi

What Happens Next?

The first hints of the magic years coming to a close showed in my kids a few years ago. They started asking questions and putting together their own explanations. The mall Santa isn’t the real Santa, because he didn’t say “ho ho ho.”  I think time slows down on Christmas Eve because there’s no way he could go to every house in the world in one night.

Of course I want to encourage their critical thinking, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be sad to see the magic years in my parental rearview. I’m lucky I haven’t yet been confronted head-on with a demanding question like, “Tell me the truth, Mom, is Santa real?” In her book, Fraiberg recommends countering this and other similar questions with another question to dig deeper into their reasoning, such as, “What do you think?” to help gauge whether or not they’re ready for the full truth. 

So if this, too, feels like it could be your last Christmas before getting hit with the hard questions, when magic is still part of that 6 a.m. sprint down the stairs, try to soak it all in. Sear their excited squeals into your memory. Take pictures, take videos, and be sure to take in the moment. I’ll be doing it too, because just like when I was a kid, I want to preserve the Christmas morning magic as long as I can.

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