As the holidays season picks up, Senior Managing Editor Katie Bugbee questions how to answer her inquisitive 7-year old when he pokes holes in the Santa story. What would you advise?
The Santa thing drives me nuts.
It’s this beautiful, magical lie we tell kids to make a holiday about giving all about getting. And we wrap it all up in a bow and big, jolly ho ho ho and expect kids to buy it.
And they do.
Their faces light up with the belief that there is an age-less man who wears the same suit 365 days a year and lives in arctic conditions with Mrs. Claus, elves, reindeer and no one else.
When my oldest was one, I awkwardly wrestled with the idea of not telling him about Santa. People thought I was ridiculous. And so did I. I wasn’t really going to not have Santa. I just couldn’t bear the thought of lying to this sweet innocent face that believed everything I said. Plus, I’m a terrible liar. And I secretly feared blowing it.
But we forged ahead. Made cookies for the big man, put out carrots, sprinkled Reindeer Dust to guide the way to our house, downloaded apps for Santa to talk to the kids. It was a world of beautiful, magical make-believe. And I’d never worked harder to make it happen.
And now that sweet baby is seven and is about to blow the whole Santa ruse for his two younger siblings.
Him: Mom, I’ve seen Santa.
Him: Yup, he has blonde hair. He’s a mom. And he’s looking at me right now.
Me: Ahh…I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Him: Santa is you, Mom. You’re Santa. I know.
Me: (Awkward laughter) You think I buy all these presents for you each year? No way. You think I come down the chimney? Ha. Santa is real, buddy. If you don’t believe, I guess he doesn’t have to bring you presents.
Ending it with a subtle threat seemed like the only card I could play. Meanwhile, I glanced at my five-year-old daughter who was soaking up the entire exchange like a super sponge.
Distract. Distract. Who wants ice cream?!
Repeated references of not believing in Santa have gone ignored. This leaves me with a difficult decision: Do I take him aside and say, I’ll let you in on this “grown-up secret,” just don’t blow this for your siblings. Or, do I continue suggesting Santa doesn’t come to non-believers and attempt to keep the magic alive?
When I was 5-years old, I approached my mom and said “I know the whole Santa thing. He lives in your heart.” The truth was I saw my dad put a Hess truck in his trunk and then give it to me from Santa. My mom let me in on the Santa ruse and Christmas was still great. Beyond great. But I didn’t have younger siblings then.
By third grade, most kids were figuring it out. I remember a day when some girl went around and separated the class by who believed in Santa, and who didn’t. The cool girls believed. So I said I did too. That whole year I spent wanting to believe.
How much magic does Santa really bring? I’m left wrestling with this question. And I think the answer is that Christmas is better because Santa is in it. For the kids -- and for the parents. We are why we create these fantasies. We know how Christmas feels with Santa and without.. and just like my third-grade-self, we know -- Christmas is better with Santa. Religion aside, without Santa we’re just exchanging presents. Without Santa the kids grow up faster than we’re ready for. Our kids are little on Christmas morning. They run down in their PJs, squeal with joy. They look at the chimney, at the cookies and carrots, and they wonder – how? And for a year -- or an hour -- or just a few minutes -- they believe in magic. And I do too.
Maybe I’m preserving their youth. Maybe it’s mine. But over the next few weeks when my 7-year old tells me he doesn’t believe, I can just turn to him and say, “Well, I do.”
I’m happy to leave him guessing a little bit longer while I work my a$$ off to keep this magic alive for the rest of us. My third-grade-self appreciates it.
I wish you a happy, stress-free holiday. Please share: How do you handle this question? And how do you keep the magic alive whether they believe or not?
For great advice and holiday help go to Care.com/happyholidays.