Tonight, out of the blue in the car ride home, my seven-year-old said, “you know what Mom? A lot of my friends say Santa Claus isn’t real.” My heart skipped a beat. I knew this day would come eventually, but not so soon. Not until he was at least eight, I thought. And definitely not on a muggy August afternoon. So I said, “Oh yeah? Well what do you think?” I was hoping that, by turning the question around he would just say he believed in Santa and that would be the end of it. But, it wasn’t. And what happened next is what I had been dreading. He asked me, point-blank, in a very serious tone, “Mommy, tell me the honest truth. Do you and Daddy put the presents out on Christmas?”
The question itself might not seem like a big deal, but I have this thing about brutal honesty with my kids. We don’t have cute names for our genitalia in this house, for example. We call our body parts by their proper names (and then wince when our toddler decides to talk about her vagina or her brother’s penis loudly in public). When a pet dies, or when someone is sick, we don’t hide it from them. We tell them honestly what happened, answer their questions, and help them to deal with their feelings. When they want us to buy them something that is too expensive, we tell them that….we don’t make up excuses for why they can’t have said item. Recently, my son even asked me if I believed in God, to which I gave him an honest answer (no) and then sat with him to attempt to explain in a child-friendly way about different belief systems and religions.
But the Santa thing is a tough one. How do I preserve the magic of Christmas without outright lying to my kid? How do I ensure that our younger child doesn’t get gypped out of that same wonder and excitement that our son got to experience when he was her age? If I tell my son the truth, will he ruin Christmas for our daughter? Will the holiday lose some of its magic for us all?
So, I did the best I could. I looked him right in the eye and said, “Gabriel, do you think that I really would have given you a Nintendo DS for Christmas last year?” With that statement, his eyes lit up. In that moment, he made the connection: there must be a Santa because Mommy doesn’t like him playing video games and there is no way that she would have purchased that for him. I breathed a sigh of relief. The moment had passed, and I hadn’t outright lied to my kid. I was safe, for now. At least until he starts thinking about the Easter Bunny…I have no idea how I am going to sell him on a giant rabbit that hides chocolate eggs. That one is just creepy, if you ask me.