Yesterday, the youngest brought home an Easter basket that he made in his first grade class. He's been pretty glad that HE didn't give up candy for Lent. I know this because there are chocolate foil wrappers and empty plastic eggs all over the house and I know that at least 40% of those are not from ME. He also has a mustache the color of green apple Jolly Ranchers. Hey. It IS Spring Break, AND he gave up french fries this year...
The little man asked his dad who he thought filled the baskets in his classroom. The man just shrugged and smiled at me. I smiled big right back, because scenes like this ALWAYS remind me of one of my favorite Kindergarten stories...
There was a little boy named Billy (not his real name,) who came to school crying his eyes out one cold, December morning. When I asked him what was wrong, he said, "Dean (not his real name) told me that Santa Claus is not real! He told me that I'm a baby for not knowing that my parents are the ones who bring presents! He told Sarah and Joe from the other class too....Ahhhhhhhhhhh (more tears) Is it true, Mrs. M.? Is Santa not for real?"
"Oh honey" I said, totally unprepared, "what do you think?"
"Well I sat on his lap on Saturday! He knows what I want for Christmas! We're making cookies for Rudolph! I think he's real, but Dean says..." said the boy whose chest was still rising and falling with sobs.
"Billy, you can't listen to everything Dean says...and I'm so sorry he made you cry. I will talk with your mom about this later today, okay?" I said, absolutely relieved to hear the morning bell ringing.
After the children had said the pledge and began their morning lessons, I called lovely "Dean" into the hallway. He knew what I was calling him out for because he spoke before I was able to.
He said loudly, "Billy is such a baby! It's not my fault he doesn't know there is no such thing as Santa! My mom told me that when I was like, THREE! Duh!"
All I could think of was the rest of the children I would have to be consoling for the rest of the day over this. I paused for a moment, then leaned down very close to Dean's face. These are the words I chose, and I spoke them slowly, so Dean would understand..
"Dean. I understand that you are very grown up. I get that you don't believe in things like Santa or the Easter Bunny anymore. I respect that your mom has told you the truth about these things, but really. Other parents may not have told their children this yet. You may NOT go around ruining this for other children. The others will all learn in their own time. For now, PLEASE don't say anything more to the children, okay?"
Dean looked back at me with tears in his eyes. This was a rare sight. I couldn't believe that I'd gotten through to him. Usually he was the one who would shrug his shoulders or nod carelessly. His mouth had begun to quiver and my heart started to ache for this little boy. I hoped I wasn't too stern; that wasn't my intention at all.
"Are you okay?" I asked, holding both of his hands.
"NO!" he yelled. He was in full-force crying mode now.
"Dean, what's the matter?" I said, squeeze-hugging him and checking out the children who were starting to stare at us through the open classroom door.
Dean pulled away from me. He looked me in my eyes, then ran to the teacher from the next room who had come to see what all the fuss was about. During the run, Dean screamed in a piercing voice for all the school to hear,
"Mrs. M. said there's no such thing as the Easter Bunny! She said he wasn't real!!!".
Holy marshmallow peeps, people. It takes skills to kill kid's dreams.
Happy, "believe-whatever-you-want-to" Saturday, friends.