It started with the Tooth Fairy.
"I don't believe in the Tooth Fairy," my oldest said when he was 8. "I think it's just your parents."
He was watching me as he spoke and I could hear the question lurking behind his statement.
I looked everywhere but at him. "Well," I began, unsure exactly what to say next. I was willing to throw the Tooth Fairy under the bus, to strip her of her magical powers and own up, if I knew it would satisfy him. But I feared the avalanche of scrutiny outting her would spark.
Before I could decide how best to respond, he asked me flat out, "Is the Tooth Fairy real?"
Once he asked me directly, I could not lie. I gave up the Tooth Fairy.
And then I hauled ass out of his room before the flames of doubt could spread to Santa.
But just a month before Christmas, he went to his dad and asked the big question. And his dad was honest.
He waited until one night, right before bed, to break the news to me. I was prattling on about Christmas when he finally said, "Mom, I know Santa's not real. Dad told me it's you guys."
My heart broke.
I knew, at some point, this day would come, that eventually my boys would get older and no longer believe. But I wasn't ready for it at 8. I wasn't ready for this shred of innocence to be stripped away. They have the rest of their lives to question, to analyze, to sit with the reality of life.
I want them to be critical thinkers.
But I also want them to be believers, to be able to shake off logic now and then and simply bask in the wonder, beauty, and magic of feeling something.
While they are little boys, that means the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.
When they are men, I hope that will mean love, humanity, and life itself.
And even magic.
Because we all need a little magic in our lives.
No matter how old we are.