“Mom, I think I need new roller blades. I have a blister on my toe,” my youngest daughter told me from the back seat of the minivan.

I rolled my eyes. School was about to start, and after purchasing supplies, new clothing and shoes for my three tween daughters, roller blades did not make it into my budget.

“Well, maybe you can ask Santa,” I replied over my shoulder.

“Or Amazon, which is basically the same thing,” my older daughter stated from the passenger seat.

I side-glanced at her and gave her my best stink-eye to signal that she should zip her mouth.

“What? It’s not like she doesn’t know, Mom. We all know,” she said with a sarcastic drawl.

I locked eyes through the rearview mirror with my youngest in the back seat to gauge her response.

“Yeah, we know. And the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. Lies, all lies! How can we ever trust you again!” she responded dramatically.

“For how long?” I cried. “When did you all know?”

“Mom, everyone knows by fourth or fifth grade, and definitely by sixth.”

I scowled and looked over at the woman-child sitting next to me. My three kids were all tweens now with my youngest entering middle school. I guess some part of me knew it was over, but as long as I kept up with the charade, I could tell myself that maybe, just maybe, one of them still believed.

The realization hit me like a sock in the gut. Santa wasn’t coming to our house anymore.

I spent the next few months saddened by the knowledge that this Christmas would be different for our family. Sure, we would still bake cookies and decorate the tree and enjoy time together, but there would be no reindeer food sprinkled on our driveway or cookies left out on our counter or cajoling the kids to go to sleep so Santa could come.

And putting this part of my daughters’ childhood to bed broke my heart. Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I thought it would no longer be the same.

As we moved closer to the holiday season, my girls and I started some of our annual traditions. We purchased food for families in need for Thanksgiving, put together gift boxes to send to children and servicemen and women overseas, and donated hats, gloves and outgrown winter clothing to a nearby shelter.

When one of my twins came home with a notice of a Christmas share program at her school, I smiled when she told me she selected a family with three young girls just like ours.

As we went down the list and planned what we would get each person, my daughter paused. “Do you think their parents will tell them that the gifts are from Santa?”

“I don’t know. I hope so,” I answered.

“Me too,” she said softly.

And that’s when it hit me. Santa’s not coming to our house anymore.

But with the help of my kids, we’re making sure he shows up everywhere he is supposed to be this season.

He’ll be in shoeboxes and donation bins. He’ll be in grocery bags and wrapped mittens. He’ll be in Christmas carols and cookies delivered to neighbors.

I will miss the traditions and magic and belief in Jolly Old St. Nick.

Santa isn’t coming to our house anymore, but he’s never leaving our hearts.

Santa isn’t coming to our house anymore, but he’s never leaving our hearts.

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a freelance writer, and co-partner of the site parentingteensandtweens.com You can find her on Facebook at WhitneyFlemingWrites.