She asked me to tell her the story of the birth of Venus again.
We talk about what we believe and what other people believed long ago. She asks about other gods the Romans worshipped.
(Just wait until I introduce Aphrodite and the Greek posse. That'll blow her mind.)
We talk about what we believe today and what other people believe today.
And then, a Moment of Parental Reckoning: E asks if we believe in Santa Claus.
I don't want to mislead her and I also don't want her to ruin the magic that may sparkle in her friends' eyes. I speak carefully: I tell her some people believe there is a Santa Claus (who is not entirely unlike the Tooth Fairy) who descends into homes and leaves gifts for Christian kids. I tell her some people believe there was a real man once a long time ago, but today he's nothing but a story. I remind her (oh so gently) that Jewish people don't generally believe in Santa Claus or other Christian-based beliefs.
Well...I believe in him, Mama.
Tomorrow is the annual holiday party where I work, and because the girls' daycare is in my building, the daycare kids are trotted out every year to the middle of the party. They will hang ornaments that they will have decorated on the large tree and they will entertain the crowd with their off-key but very enthusiastic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells." There will be a jolly man in a Santa suit who will distribute small gifts to any child who sits on his lap. They both sat on his lap last year.
Is there a Santa Claus? This girl takes such big bites out of the world and loves the challenge of digestion. For all that I know her age sometimes I forget that she's just three. If a white-bearded man in a velvet red suit with a large black buckle shows up and hands her a present every time she hangs a Christmas ornament on a tree and sings "Jingle Bells," of course she believes in Santa Claus. After all, tomorrow he'll be right in front of her.
"Okay," I tell her. "It's okay for you to believe in him."
"You can always believe whatever you want. I'm always going to keep telling you what I believe, but you should always take everything you've ever learned and figure out all by yourself whatever it is you believe."
I will, Mama. And today I believe in Santa Claus. But even though I believe in him I'm NOT sitting on his lap.