I wondered when it would happen. I wondered IF it would happen. I wondered if someday I would need to sit him down and deconstruct the magic, and I dreaded it.
Then, last Easter, Bud started laying the groundwork and testing the waters of disbelief. He didn't come out and ask, and I didn't come out and say, but together we danced around the idea of the Easter Bunny and we opened the question for consideration: just how much overlap was there between the bunny and Mom?
Bud hasn't raised the question since, not even through the Christmas excitement that started for him before the Thanksgiving turkey was fully digested. He wrote a letter to Santa and has been talking for a month about all the things that the man in red would bring. I did nothing to dissuade him.
So, I'm not sure what brought about today's turn of events. I'm not sure if kids at school have been talking about it, or if Bud has been processing it internally, or if he just suddenly had an epiphany, but this morning, as we talked about tomorrow being Christmas morning, and as he peppered me with questions to confirm that, in fact, the living room would be full of presents when he woke up, he paused, then asked me casually, "Are you going to be Santa tonight, Mom?"
I answered nonchalantly, but honestly: "Yes, I am."
He didn't flinch. "And you'll bring presents for me?"
"I sure will."
"You'll have a sack full of toys and come down the stairs and put them under the Christmas tree?"
He was quiet for a minute, and I didn't know what that meant. "How do you feel about that, Bud?" I asked.
"I feel good," he said.
About an hour later he approached me again and said with authority, "Santa can't fit down my chimney."
"No, he can't," I answered.
"You're going to be Santa?"
"Yes, I am."
He has confirmed it at least fifty times over the course of the day, but with no sign of dismay or disillusionment or disappointment.
Tonight, as we were getting ready for bed, he asked, "And you hide the Easter eggs?"
"Yes, I do."
"You're the Easter Mom?"
"I'm the Easter Mom."
I've wondered for years how this chapter would end. I always imagined that it would be emotional for him, but it doesn't seem to be. I never considered how bittersweet it would be for me. But it really is. He is still fiercely devoted to the Teletubbies. He is still so innocent in so many ways. But I think that today, right in front of my eyes, Bud crossed the invisible line and became a Big Kid.
It's a wonderful thing. It's developmentally appropriate, which means that, for Bud, it's probably an indicator of great things to come. And yet, I can already feel the little empty spot inside me that will never again be filled in quite the same way.
It's hard; but it's good - and this is a time to focus on the sweet and not the bitter. So, Merry Christmas, my friends, to those who celebrate. And all the best of the season, from my big kid and me.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I'd better go.
I've got a stocking to fill.