The worst thing anyone ever did for my theology was when I was told as a small child that Santa Claus was real only as long as you believed in him.
In my family, staying little was valued.
By the time I left for university, my youngest sibling was only six or seven years old so there were always little kids around.
Not so in my own house. From oldest to youngest, my three are three years and eight months apart. They're all big kids now -- teens and preteens. And I love this stage nearly all the time. I love the goofiness, the questions, the energy, the emerging selves that surround me (and threaten to eclipse me in every sense). I do not love the mess and the no-private-time-for-parents and the occasional eye rolling, but I really welcome these older kids with open arms and heart.
But then it comes time to set up the Christmas tree. We have two large boxes of ornaments. Almost every ornament tells a tale. There are the ornaments I choose each year for each child, trying to find something that fits. There are the ornaments we've collected on every trip. But the sweetest ornaments are the ones made by preschool hands -- googly eyes askew, hands traced to form angel wings, copper hammered into heart and star. There are photo ornaments of the impish little faces (and our much younger faces too).
This year, we have a little one in our midst again. He's rolling on the floor beside me as I write. Because of the puppy, we've put our tree up in the family room this year instead of in the living room window. The family room can be closed off from eager paws and energetic tails.
This little one will have his own stocking this year (and, truth be told, a Santa hat with an elastic under his chin. Which will last all of thirty seconds.) But it's not the same as the wonder of a small person.
As I say, I adore having big kids. I don't miss bundling three kids in and out of snowsuits in the winter. (I had to bar the door this morning until the eldest accepted the winter coat I insisted he wear.)
But, at the same time, I want to say to those of you with little ones: savour the moment. Put aside your fatigue and the must-do's once in a while to breathe in the wonder and delight of little people. Sing with them. Make one batch of gingerbread cookies. Plan surprises. Roll snowballs. Go see the lights in the park. Sit on Santa's knee. Tell them the story of the stable and the star. Sit quietly and watch the lights on the tree twinkle. Count down each day of Advent in some way.
And really, the same is the true for our household. Last night, I played piano duets of carols with my daughter and played dress up with her. This moment too and all its sweetness will pass.
Wherever we are, there is something good to be savoured this Christmas. It may take hunting to find it. It may come in the offering rather than in the receiving.
But it's there. Whether we believe in it or not.