Recently one of my autism mom friends shared that her teenage son still writes letters to Santa Claus. She told me that she thought he didn’t still believe in Santa, but he wasn’t taking any chances. I found this endearing and could picture him thinking carefully about his wish list. As I mentioned in my recent blog entry “Request Routine,” Alex rarely asks for any specific gifts, so we have to guess what he’d like for his birthday or Christmas. Consequently, he never wrote letters to Santa, but he believed in him far longer than most kids do. We allowed him to enjoy this fallacy of childhood until he was about thirteen years old for the following reasons: A) He was homeschooled, so we didn’t have to worry about classmates making fun of him for believing or ruining the joy behind the myth of Santa Claus, as some kid did for me when I was in second grade. B) We didn’t want him telling his younger cousins that Santa doesn’t exist, spoiling their fun. C) We enjoyed watching how happy the thought of Santa’s bringing gifts to him made Alex. On a side note, we let him believe in the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny longer than he probably should have, as well. The only problem was that we had to make sure that he understood while Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny were made up, the things we had told him about Jesus and God were real. Fortunately, he seemed to understand the difference without having a crisis of faith.
While Alex liked Santa, he had no desire to see him in person. When he was about three years old, he went with his cousin to see Santa. His cousin, who was about 4 ½ years old at the time, was very outgoing and talkative sitting on Santa’s lap, but Alex wanted no part of that. Truthfully, I never had any desire to see Santa when I was a child, so I completely understood his hesitation. My parents have pictures of my siblings with Santa but none of me with Santa because I was always too shy, and they understood that, just as I empathized with Alex’s unwillingness to meet and greet Santa. Alex seemed to prefer cartoon versions of Santa rather than real people dressed as Santa anyway. One of his favorite annual Christmas cartoons is The Year without a Santa Claus. However, his favorite character in this story is not Santa; instead, he prefers Heat Miser and Snow Miser, whom he calls “The Hot and Cold Guys.” He thinks their song and dance is funny, and with his love of meteorology, he likes that they mention weather conditions in their songs, such as, “I never want to know a day that’s under sixty degrees; I’d rather have it eighty, ninety, one hundred degrees!” While he found these little guys amusing, for some reason, he had a distinct dislike for elves. Whether they’re Santa’s elves, Snap, Crackle, and Pop from Rice Krispies cereal, or the Keebler cookie elves, Alex made his displeasure with them known, saying whenever he saw an elf, “DON’T LIKE ELVES!” We had a cute cookie container that he would hide because he didn’t like the pictures of the Keebler elves on the lid. Apparently, he has gotten past that feeling because he assures me now that elves are okay with him.
One of the Santa traditions that Ed started doing with Alex when he was small was leaving cookies and milk for Santa. This was new to me, as my family had not done this on Christmas Eve when I was growing up. Ed made a point of explaining the snack and helping Alex leave it so Santa would find it on a table next to the fireplace where Santa would come down the chimney. I always found it ironic that I did most of Santa’s job—figuring out what gifts to give Alex, finding them, buying them, wrapping them, and arranging them nicely for him to open on Christmas morning—yet Ed always devoured the snack Alex had left behind for Santa, making sure to leave some crumbs and a thank you note for Alex from “Santa.” I might add that I made those cookies from scratch, so “Santa” was a smart guy to take advantage of the opportunity to eat what my in-laws praise highly and affectionately call “Aunt Pam” cookies. At least “Santa” was nice enough to leave a note of gratitude. Nonetheless, the planning, shopping, wrapping, and arranging were always rewarding because Alex showed his delight with the presents Santa had brought him, making everything worthwhile.
“Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth.” Ephesians 4:14