There may be some remarkable instances of parenthood that you long to preserve eternally. Last Christmas morning, I experienced one of those instances. As our family assembled downstairs around 6 a.m., I observed my 9-year-old carefully deciding which present from Santa to unwrap first, while her younger sister opted for the largest one. It evoked memories of my own childhood, when I, too, would deliberate on which presents to unwrap first and prolong my excitement.
This year, with a 10- and 7-year-old, I can’t shake off the feeling that this could be the ultimate holiday with the full-fledged Christmas enchantment. Any instant, a remark from a friend, or a glimpse at our Amazon purchase history could potentially dismantle the illusion. I sense that I’m on the brink of a pivotal moment in parenting, contemplating whether I’ve instilled adequate Christmas enchantment in my children to pass on to their own offspring someday. I hope these Christmas morning recollections endure with them as they have endured with me, particularly since I’m aware that my time parenting in “the enchanted years” is slipping away.
What Are “The Enchanted Years?”
The term “enchanted years” was coined by child development expert Selma Fraiberg to describe the preschool years when imagination reaches great heights. During this phase, children believe in things without needing evidence, solely through the use of their imagination. The enchanted years have contributed to the perpetuation of the legend of Santa Claus across generations, as young children find it entirely plausible.
What Comes After?
Signs of the enchanted years drawing to a close began to emerge in my children a few years ago. They began posing questions and formulating their own interpretations. While I want to foster their critical thinking, it’s painful for me to witness the enchantment of the early years fading away. I have been fortunate not to be confronted with direct questions like, “Tell me the truth, Mom, is Santa real?” However, Fraiberg advises responding to such questions with another question to comprehend their thought process, such as, “What do you think?” to assess their readiness for the truth.
If you are also sensing that this could be your final Christmas before grappling with challenging questions, treasure the enchantment that still lingers in those early morning moments. Embrace their exuberant excitement in your memory, capture photos and videos, and relish every moment. I’ll be doing the same because, similar to my childhood, I want to prolong the enchantment of Christmas morning for as long as possible.