My Kids Might Be Teenagers But We Still Put Milk and Cookies Out for Santa

Because my kids will never be too old for a little Christmas magic

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: My Kids Might Be Teenagers But We Still Put Milk and Cookies Out for Santa

The other day, my daughter (who’s now in college) and I were out to lunch and she was going on and on about how much she loved Christmas when she was young…

“Oh my gosh, Mom, I remember bursting with excitement on Christmas Eve! I couldn’t wait for Santa to come to OUR house!” she said. “I tried so hard to stay awake so I could hear Rudolph and all of Santa’s reindeer land on the roof. And, oh… waking up on Christmas morning…. it was a magical time I’ll never forget.” 

She was so right. It was a magical time. Not only for her and my other two kids but for me. 

I loved every minute of it.

I mean, sure, I was completely and utterly exhausted trying to squeeze in as many holiday memories as humanly possible so my kids would grow up remembering how amazing Christmases past were. But it was all worth it. 

Every stocking brimming with goodies, every homemade sugar cookie covered in sprinkles, every Christmas bedtime story I read to them, every holiday craft we made that covered my kitchen floor with glitter and glue, every package wrapped at midnight, every visit to sit on Santa’s lap, every drive to see the best holiday lights in town… every everything was worth it.

If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing. Just seeing the sparkle in their eyes and hearing the excitement in their voices filled my heart to the brim. I knew this precious time of them “believing” wouldn’t last forever and I was determined to soak in every last minute.

And then… just like I knew it one day would, all the magic and wonder I had come to cherish started to fade. 

My kids no longer believed in Santa or the magic of him swooshing down our chimney in the middle of the night and dropping presents for them under our tree. They eventually figured out that the mysterious and mischievous elf they loved more than life itself wasn’t really wreaking havoc on the house or doing those crazy antics – it was just their dad and I acting on his behalf.

And, the long Christmas wish list they handed to us when they were young? Well, it was replaced with a short list with small notations that read, “If you can afford it, I’d like this, too.” 

I’ve come to realize that the Christmas (holiday) season is very different when you have big kids. But what I’ve also come to realize is that it has a special magic all its own…

Sure, some magic has faded with the years. And, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I miss those days. But a new kind of magic is replacing it – a magic that, for me, was unexpected and perhaps even more special than I could have imagined.

Being together with my big kids (who, by the way, aren’t just my kids. Somewhere along the way, they became my cherished friends), and talking, laughing, sharing stories, and reminiscing – now that’s magic. 

Having us all gathered around the tree and watching my kids open presents with a true sense of appreciation and gratefulness – now that’s magic.

Being in the kitchen and cooking Christmas dinner together goofing around, nibbling on appetizers, and listening to holiday music – now that’s magic. 

And, carrying on so many of the same traditions (yep, even the hokey ones) my kids loved when they were younger. Now that’s magic… 

Sure, my kids might be teenagers, but we still have a baking day where sugar sprinkles end up from one end of my kitchen to the other.

We still hop in the car with hot cocoa and cookies, crank up the Christmas music, and look for the best lights in town. 

I still break out the Santa hats and reindeer ears and, much to my surprise, my kids still put them on.

We still fill their stockings with goodies including the traditional chocolate Santa, candy canes, and crummy-tasting gold chocolate coins my son loved as a child.

My husband still sprinkles powder around his clunky work boots so it looks like Santa came down the chimney. (But now my kids’ eyes don’t light up in wonder, they light up because they remember.)

I still pull the elf out of his hiding spot and put him up to some fun mischief just so I can hear my kids laugh and say, “Geez, Mom… hasn’t that elf kicked the bucket yet?” 

I still (actually, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit) love reading “The Night Before Christmas” to my family on Christmas Eve while we’re sitting around the fire. (I definitely get a few eye rolls, but also a ton of laughs because I’ll hand the book to my kids to let them read it and they get ridiculously animated which is hilarious.)

And… yes, my kids might be teenagers but we still put milk and cookies out for Santa and my husband still takes a few bites after my kids have disappeared into their bedrooms for the night.

Call it silly if you like, but those traditions are the glue that holds my family together. Cracking jokes while watching their favorite movie classics like Rudolph or How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Teasing each other as we reminisce about each other’s past Christmas wish lists – like the year my son cried because he didn’t get a REAL airplane from Santa. And talking about funny memories like the time my daughter threw up because she ate all of Rudolph’s carrots in four minutes flat. 

Those memories, those laughs, and those traditions mean everything to me…

Because there’s so much special magic in the memories my kids and my husband and I hold dear.

Because nothing says “home” more than wonderful memories from years past. 

Because even though my kids act all cool, roll their eyes, and say, “OMG, Moooommm, we’re still doing this??” I know they secretly love our silly family traditions – I can see it in their eyes. 

Because I know it won’t be like this forever and holding onto these traditions is as much for me as they are for my kids.

Because now that my kids are older and life is shifting, nothing matters more to me than having my family by my side and creating new memories. 

So, moms and dads… go ahead. Don’t let your “too cool for traditions” teenager fool you. They love all those family traditions that take them back to their childhood (maybe even the hokey ones the best). They love that you’re putting forth the effort to make them smile and laugh.

And, they love YOU for caring enough to remind them that the magic of Christmas comes in many different forms. Not just presents under the tree or fancy holiday vacations but in the beauty of simply being together, remembering, and creating new lasting memories.

Now that’s magic…


If you enjoyed reading, “My Kids Might Be Teenagers, But We Still Put Milk and Cookies Out for Santa,” you might like to read these other posts!

Dear Moms of Teens, The True Magic of Christmas Wasn’t When our Kids Were Young. It’s Now.

22 Christmas Traditions for Teens Who Need a Little Nudge to Get Into the Holiday Spirit

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