E+E Column: Growing up too fast…Does she still believe?

Whilst driving with the kids to visit a friend a few weeks ago with the radio on, a round of ‘Defend the Indefensible’ on Radio 4 caught my attention. Unfortunately, it caught the attention of the kids as well. I say this because the contestant playing was rather loudly and proudly defending the fact that she had chosen to tell a 5 year old the Father Christmas doesn’t exist. As she uttered these words and then confirmed this declaration to any young listeners, a silence descended on the car. After a moment, Isaac tentatively said to me ‘that lady is being silly isn’t she Mummy, because Father Christmas does exist doesn’t he? Doesn’t he?’ After some reassurance from me, Sophia piped up ‘well, I guess it could be you and Daddy staying up late and filling our stockings…it’s probably not though.’

So crisis averted for now (no thanks to Radio 4!) but it got me wondering just how long do children believe in the big man in red for? And it got me thinking about just how quickly my gorgeous big girl is growing up. Sob. She’ll be 6 next month, a fact that still flummoxes me. How can she be 6 already!? But I didn’t think that she’d be questioning Santa’s existence already. She is a bright cookie but still so young. The question now is, do we actively push Father Christmas as a real entity or just leave her to make her own judgements around it? My instinct tells me the latter but I’ll be sad if we don’t have a few more years left of all the kids believing wholeheartedly in him. I was cynical when they were younger about the deception but there is something just lovely about the magic of the whole thing.

I think I will however, have to accept that she is growing up quickly, and be ready for what this will bring. She asked for her hair in bunches last week but after a day of wearing it like that, told me she was worried that it didn’t suit her and thought that people were looking at her because of it whilst we were out. It almost broke my heart to see her so worried about her appearance and the judgements of others. I’m not particularly vain and we’ve never placed much emphasis on having to look a certain way but she’s obviously picked up the idea of things suiting her and people judging others on how they look anyway. I did my best to reassure her that all that mattered was that she liked the way her hair was done but she didn’t look convinced. Parenting continues to be a massive learning curve. Every time you think you’ve worked out how to deal with the latest challenge, you are rewarded with a brief moment of peace before the next stage starts and you have to develop a whole new set of tools to guide and help your kids. I’m continually reminded of Dory in Finding Nemo (every parent’s favourite!)…just keep swimming, just keep swimming…


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