Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jesse's Broken Heart

It is the end of a long afternoon of tears. Gillen went to the farm after lunch so Jesse and I were here alone. We were in the kitchen. Jesse, in his footed polar bear pjs, sat on a short step stool that we have in there and asked me, "What is life? What is the reason? Like before all of it, before the big bang?"

History was repeating itself. Immediately I was with my mother in our kitchen in Boston. I was about seven, like Jesse, and was sitting on a tall stool asking her about life while she cooked. I remembered how she had laughed but had tried to answer me.

I didn't laugh. I told Jesse that I had the same questions at his age and asked him what he thought life was about.

He said he thought it was about magic, and then he thought to himself for a bit.

"God is not something that you can see."

I nodded. "Those who think God is real know him because of faith," I said. Faith wasn't an entirely new concept to him.

"I think that Santa is a God," he said, very seriously. "We do know he is there, and is magic, so he is a God..."

I stopped him there.

"Jesse, I have to tell you something ."

And while explaining the reality of Santa, I watched the magic and faith seep out of Jesse. He was devastated. Gillen hadn't been, when he was told the truth by his cousin a few years ago. I know that a lot of kids take it in stride. But it had been hard for me. And it was so much harder for Jesse. He has been going back and forth between anger and sadness for hours. Several times he has screamed at me, "It is all about a lie! How could you do this..." his eyes showing how betrayed he feels. He said that we should have told him long ago while he was still young enough not to really get it (meaning not yet believe in so much imaginative detail, I suspect).

I didn't try to excuse the lie or to fix what he was feeling. I just tried to be there for him. I apologized. He didn't want me to be too near, but he did keep coming back to me to cry and talk out his feelings. He talked about how much it had meant that Santa was proof that there was magic. : (

I know that he will find magic again in his life - a first kiss, or a miraculous encounter, or witnessing his child's birth. But right now, I feel like I personally slayed the big guy. I wish that I could take it all back.

What a Valentine.

Later: Jesse and I managed to end our day with giggles and more deep conversation about magic. He talked about specific characters he has made up from his Fight to the Finish game but that they aren't "magic". I tried to explain that yes they are because he is the magic. He is going on a "magic expedition" tomorrow with a magnifying glass and binoculars (because it may be really, really small, or far away).

Along with Santa, the tooth fairy and the easter bunny (I hadn't thought he still put much stock in that one) died today as well. What a lot to lose.


Kaat said...

Poor Madeline!
I so feel for you. Out here Amie is only just starting to engage in elaborate "imachinations", and already I am anxious about where it all will lead...
But you know, you had to tell him some time. And don't worry, he won't have to wait for the first kiss to find new magic! I'm sure there will be other magical moments and... entities coming his way quite soon.
For what it's worth, Happy Valentine anyway, for a great mom!
Katrien at MamaStories

Kelly said...

Oh Madeline....I feel so sad for both of you. What a hard thing. I am actually crying myself right now.
Alex, at 10, still believes strongly and completely in magic and what you cannot see - but feel or sense. We was so excited the other day when his newest friend (Max) spoke of a magicial place in the woods near his house. He was like - "Mom, someone else besides us can feel magic!" I hope Jesse gets that feeling back again and I hope Alex never looses it.

Deanne said...

My daughter took it pretty hard when she found out too. It was mostly because she couldn't believe that we would lie to her. Fortunately, she still believes in miracles and things that are beyond our understanding. She just knows now that Mom and Dad are capable of mistakes, and she has forgiven us. I'm sure Jesse will reach that point too, and you need to forgive yourself too. It is a hard realization for both parents and kids to accept, but your love for each other will overcome it all.

donab said...

My heart goes out to you and Jesse both. Losing faith in magic, even if only for a little while, is devastating.

I have always believed that Santa's magic is that he lives a bit in all of us. We share this idea of him, and it inspires us to give selflessly at Christmas or any other time of the year.

There is so much magic in the world, and I hope that Jesse will find some other ways to find his belief in it again.

Madeline said...

Thank you all. He has forgiven us! He has truly let it go, already. And he confirmed this morning that of course he believes in magic. Maybe allowing himself to feel it so hugely allowed the disappointment to run its course, you know?

OpenHeart said...

What a special little guy you have! Sounds like he will never really lose the magic because he is so deeply in touch with it.

Schuyler said...

Linnaea was amazing when I told her this past year. And it was all me, she didn't begin it, although she had talked about Santa as a magical faith-based creature before I let the cat out of the bag. She said that she figured other kids needed Santa more than she did since she had such great parents. Talk about a cushion landing. She still has magic in her life, she believes in unicorns and dragons. She thinks either they once were but are now extinct or that they live on the fringes and just haven't been rediscovered.

Madeline said...

Schuyler, you so resemble her remark. :) Jesse believed in dragons until two days ago. Now, I don't know. At least i can honestly say, "I don't know." He and Gillen watch a show about dragons that is a documentary type (think Walking with Dinosaurs) filmed as if they were real. It is on the Science channel.

mindy said...

What a heart breaker! I am so glad you guys have found your way through this maze I have yet to navigate. Big Giant Hugs! And we like that dragon show too. There may just be a bit of magic left...

John said...

Oh, this post gave me a stomach ache. My 10 year old has been asking questions about this same issue. When she asked, I didn't have the guts to tell her the truth, so I just pointed questions back at her so she could try to come up with her own conclusion - one I wouldn't deny. We never solved it and I'm so afraid she is going to have the same reaction. My heart goes out to you. Being a mom is so frickin hard sometimes.

Certified Healing Coach said...

I just happened across your blog. I'm homeschooling and considering the slide into unschooling, and I live in GA, too, so I stopped to read.

And saw your heartbreaking story!

I'm sorry you both had to go through it.

I have a tale from the other side. To avoid such an event, I never let my son think there was a Santa. I wanted to be able to say that I had never lied to him.

Well, we occasionally have conversations where he asks if he can pretend Santa is real. He tells me he wishes he was and seems quite wistful.

And telling him that there really was a Kris Kringle/Saint Nick/gift-giver isn't terribly comforting.


Madeline said...

John (who may have anther name, possibly?), I think you may be right to let your daughter come up with her own conclusion, when she is ready. I think some hold on, even when they may know. With Jesse, he had been making the idea of Santa bigger and bigger for the past several months which then made my lie bigger, you know? I don't know that I should have said something. Good luck.

"", I am glad that you stopped by. It was great to hear about the other side. I needed that.

dharmamama said...

You know, I never actually *told* Evan there wasn't a Santa. I say that I still believe in Santa, because I DO believe in the giving spirit of Christmas, and that's what Santa is to me. Evan is the whole reason I found unschooling... when he was 9 1/2, I found him crying one day because he was SO SAD that he had to leave to go on his Pokemon journey when he turned ten. OMG, what a kid. Still amazing at 15. He did ask flat-out if Santa was real when he was... 10, I think? Maybe 11? and I told him what I wrote above. He now really enjoys finding ways to bring the magic to Seth.

He had a transitional year, where he picked out a super-special gift for Seth, and put it under the tree "from Santa", but still wrote Santa a letter himself.

You've made me all teary! I *love* the magic Jesse found at the pond.

persephone said...

Oh Maddie, I laughed I cried, what a rollercoaster. I love Jesse's quest for magic, how beautiful.

Erikka said...

i felt a part of my own inner child hurting with you and your son. why can't we all hold on to magic...real magic, not just the first kisses and births and such, but the imaginative idea that things beyond our explanation are out there....?

is there a healthy way to do that?

Madeline said...

I think we can. Jesse has more imagination than anyone i know. His imagination is what made him create such a magically detailed Santa. But he thought, unlike his usual imaginative meanderings, that this one was based on a reality that we had told him about. So I set him up. But yes, his awareness of the unexplainable is big. I got him a pocket magnifying glass yesterday for his magic quests. And he is still deeply enamored with the unexplainable.