Mama Madison: Hit the road, Santa

There comes a time when it's too weird to keep believing

I know Alec Baldwin has had some parenting problems with his own daughter, but I never expected him to cause much of an issue for me. But that changed last weekend when, in search of some holiday-themed escapism, I took a carload of kids to check out his latest role as the voice of "North", aka Santa Claus, in DreamWorks new release, Rise of the Guardians.

For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of this computer-animated fantasy, it's the story of a partnership forged to save the world, much like the Justice League or the Avengers. But instead of traditional superheroes fighting crime, the film features familiar childhood characters like E. Aster Bunnymund (an Easter Bunny from Down Under), the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, Jack Frost, and their intrepid Red Suited (and, in the film, tattooed) leader, North, joining forces to prevent Pitch (the Boogeyman) from engulfing the world in darkness.

I will not get in to any more plot specifics here. Nor will I attempt to review the film in any way. I will though offer one piece of critical advice. Don't take a kid teetering on the edge of the "I believe in Santa" cliff. Because seeing this film has pushed my daughter right over.

At our house, the shine came off the Easter Bunny long ago when my middle son, probably eight or nine at the time, found a receipt for faux grass and Cadbury eggs treats at the bottom of a Walgreens bag on Easter morning. Exhausted from egg hiding, I didn't have the heart or energy to lie to him. I quickly spilled the (jelly) beans. No, son, the pastel M&Ms and Skittles you look forward to every year are not stuffed into those cheap plastic eggs by a floppy eared rabbit. Instead, it's always been just your dad and me sweating out the proper ratio of foil wrapped bunnies to marshmallow Peeps that you find carefully arranged in your basket.

It's actually kind of shocking the Tooth Fairy ruse lasted as long as it did at our place. Because regardless of whether the bagged bicuspid was placed under a pillow, on top of a pillow or even taped to the freaking door with a powerfully worded note to the Matriarch of Molars, my husband I were pathologically unable to promptly remove the goods and leave the requisite payment.

For some generous reason though, our kids cut us a lot of slack on this one. They willingly believed (or pretended to believe that) the Tooth Fairy assigned to our house was regularly held up at the home of some kid who had lost both front teeth in a freak hockey accident. Or that she had fallen victim to the fairy flu that had plagued Tinkerbell and Cinderella's godmother earlier in the week.

But we eventually ran out of excuses. And they ran out of the desire to excuse us. And we all agreed that nothing needed to be placed under pillows anymore. Just yank out the incisor and call mom or dad. The financial exchange, at our house at least, could take place in broad daylight.

Jack Frost, to my kids, is just a song lyric that follows chestnuts roasting on an open fire. And I'm not sure Sandman or the Boogeyman has ever been mentioned in our home.

But Santa was something different. Because while my youngest, a logical type, had wrestled with the plausibility of an overweight bearded man fitting down our chimney, with a sack full of toys no less, she'd held on to her belief. She even told me not long ago that Santa must be real because, given the mess we'd made of the whole Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy thing, it was absolutely impossible that her Dad and I could pull Christmas off without him. It was a very sweet--though simultaneously insulting -- thing to say.

But the Santa myth went up in a cloud of fairy dust while watching "Rise of the Guardians". To her, the movie was the equivalent of remaking Spinal Tap with Mick Jagger playing the lead singer instead of the guy from Laverne and Shirley. It was just too weird a mixing of fact and fiction. If, she reasoned, Santa is actually in cahoots with the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and this Sandman guy she'd never heard of, he, alas, must be a legend, as well.

But don't worry. I am not too sad. And neither is she. The holidays and presents, she realizes, will go on without elves, flying reindeer or a ho-ho-ho.

And it's nice to have her believe -- in this stage of her life at least -- that the only "Guardians" she really needs are her hard working, but ever flawed, parents.

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