Posted on December 30, 2011
So, how did it go when our beloved Matilda said goodbye? This may be a bit jumbled and rambling because it’s 4am and I’m exhausted – my apologies. Well, on Christmas morning she was still with us … in the tree with a simple note to Have Fun! Things went downhill from there much, much worse than I ever imagined. A little history about our family and the way we do things with the girls – we don’t do Santa, Easter Bunny, yada, yada. I just don’t believe in telling my kids stories that are not the truth and my biggest thing about Santa is that I want my girls to know that mommy and daddy choose to give them gifts because we love them. I don’t want to have them thinking some make believe character is leaving presents for them … and I never want to use the “be nice or you won’t get any gifts” line with them. I believe my girls are “nice” ALL the time and we don’t use the word “naughty” (or any other labels for that matter) around here. So, this whole elf thing is totally new territory for us … and we went into it like we have with everything else – with the truth. I explained at the beginning that it’s all pretend and a game, just like Santa. Which Addie totally understood and grasped. But then we all got so caught up with the fun that was Matilda that it became something much more to Adeline than I had imagined it would.
However, in the middle of December she started telling me that she wanted to pretend like Matilda was truly real and I told her that’s fine and fun if that was her choice to believe, but again reinforced that she’s a story for. Well, by the time Christmas had arrived she was terrified of Matilda leaving us. I bought one of the plush Elf on the Shelf dolls, the ones that are “supposed” to be able to stick around all year (and I put quotes on that because I’m in charge of how I choose to do our traditions and how I parent my kiddos, I could really care less how some story goes and what they say is “supposed” to be done). I had it wrapped very special with no tag … and inside was a letter from Matilda to both the girls saying she would miss them until next year, and this little doll would keep them company until she returned. Addie insisted the doll was for Eliza because Matilda wouldn’t leave her – when I explained she would be back next year and this doll was for both of them she actually threw the doll, started *sobbing* her little heart out and ran up the stairs saying that doll wasn’t special like Matilda and she didn’t want Matilda to leave. Wow. Was not expecting that. But all my mommy alarms are going off now and screaming at me, “SEE! This is exactly why we don’t do Santa and why we don’t lie to our kids, no matter how fun the game is … these precious little beings depend on us for the truth, for comfort and security. And now you’ve gone and created this huge story, that Adeline ended up believing along the way and you’ve confused the hell out of her precious little heart!! Now what are you going to do, you idiot??”
And, well, that is where I am still … Matilda is still with us, but not doing much except sitting in one spot and leaving a note here and there or hugging a little toy figurine on most mornings. I told Addie that Matilda, mommy and daddy all love her very much and will do whatever makes her heart happy and that she doesn’t need to worry. I don’t think she believes me. This is heart wrenching because this little one has never doubted a word I’ve said and has certainly never been this distraught over something that is totally unnecessary – and something *I* created in her world. But I’m certainly not going to break her heart to pieces for the sake of a Christmas story. And my heart is torn over whether I tell her again that it’s just pretend when she is so adamant that Matilda really is magic … will that be just as painful? We told her when we first got Matilda that it was a game and pretend … but then with each day and new “game” she believed it more and by doing all of these things with the elf every day we enforced that belief. She did just turn six after all – with all this “proof” why wouldn’t she believe it’s real? Especially since we’ve never ever lied to her before in her life and she knows from us that Santa isn’t real, etc, etc. and why we don’t do Santa except as a fun story to tell. I know how important magic and make believe is in a child’s world … and when I saw her absolutely light up with each day we had with Matilda I just got caught up in that joy she was showing. When she asked about what we thought Matilda was capable of we simply asked her what she believed instead of answer one way or another – careful to never lie to her, but at a certain point we stopped outright explaining again that it was all a pretend game for fun. Did I betray her by doing so?? It just seemed so important to her to believe, and we had nothing but fun, love and laughter with this little new ritual … but I’m left questioning whether it was the best thing to introduce to my innocent little hearted Addie. Even Eliza knows who Matilda is now and will point at her and giggle when she hears someone mention her name. So, I’m in a state of, “Yikes! What the hell did I do here??” Is there a way to keep the magic and fantasy without the lie? Our kids need us to give them truth, security and a solid foundation of trust … did I endanger that and for something so silly?
You can see our fun loving Matilda with her “Have Fun!” note pre-Christmas morning … and after Addie got the plush “replacement” doll and had a heartbreaking meltdown over the thought of Matilda leaving (and she’s known since day one that the elves are around for Christmas time only, but it didn’t lessen the blow) you’ll see the note that was hastily written saying, “Don’t Worry. I love you.” Because my promises that nobody was going to take Matilda away until she was ready, and that mommy and daddy would make sure her heart wasn’t broken, were met with uncertainty … which was probably my fault for starting the whole thing to begin with. Anyone else out there dealt with anything similar??
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