Last year, right around this time, Lo and I got a surprise lecture from The Boy. It went something like this: “If Santa isn’t real, then you really shouldn’t pretend that he is. If kids shouldn’t lie, then neither should parents. Lying is not allowed.” And he walked off quietly miffed.
Our response to his pronouncement was a mix of bewilderment and stifled guffaws. It was a little bit shocking and a little bit humorous too. I mean, you can’t help but laugh at the things that fall out of your children’s mouths sometimes, funny or not. The thing is though, he was dead serious. Someone had dropped the bomb. Someone had told him the truth, and when the smoke cleared, we had some “splaining to do”. But did he have to be so cutting in his analysis? We never thought we were lying to him. We were just adding a little magic to his life… Right?… Anyway, after our initial reaction, Lo and I looked at each other in silence. An understanding arose between us. If he wasn’t having it anymore, then we had to tell him the truth.
Lo and I tag-team the bedtime duties. He puts The Boy to bed one night, I put him to bed the next night, and so on. It happened that this night was Lo’s night. After story time, they lay in bed together. I eavesdropped from my perch on the couch. Lo levelled with The Boy. “You’re right”, he said, “Santa is a myth. Your mom and I are the ones who bring you gifts.” Lo reported later that something like a wave of relief seemed to come over The Boy when he learned the truth. He sighed audibly and with wide eyes exclaimed: “You’re Santa!” He wasn’t upset. His boyish world wasn’t devastated. On the contrary, he was relieved and happy. Of course, during the same conversation, The Easter Bunny and The Tooth Fairy were also debunked. Yes indeed, they too bit the dust that night.
It’s funny. While he loves to read stories, The Boy prefers those that are rooted in reality. He’s not a fan of fantasy books. He has never liked cartoons and he has always refused to watch animated films. Something about them makes him uncomfortable. Time and again, I have tried to get him to watch movies like Aladdin or The Iron Giant but he just won’t have it. His favourite subject seems to be history, and his medium of choice? The documentary film. His reaction to the Santa thing is consistent with his m.o. I guess.
And I guess it’s okay that he knows. This year, whenever we mention Santa, he smiles knowingly, allows us our game for a moment, but then stresses: “You guys are Santa.” Whereupon we affirm: “You know we are.”
Sometimes I think we wanted Santa to be real more than The Boy ever did. I mean, do we need the magic of Santa Claus more than our child does? I think it’s fair to say that kids are magical simply by virtue of their age and innocence. The kids I know certainly are. But we, who have survived to adulthood? Why, for what we say is our child’s sake, do we walk a line we know is false? Why didn’t we, right from the get-go, tell the beautiful story of The Santa Claus, mythical creature who gives for the love of it, and go from there instead?
I wonder about that sometimes.
P.S. Ironically, the flying Santa in the above pictures is one I made in December 2003 when I was pregnant with The Boy. The design came from a craft magazine – I don’t recall which one – and includes a few tweaks of my own.
i don't know what to say….My big boy stopped to believe in Santa&Co when he was 12 (!!!) and he did cry a lot…My "little" one (10 years old) still believes….I think both my boys love/d to believe in this magic gang!!!! For sure this a kind of magic that I love, too!! Probably everyone has a different "need" or opinion about all these myths …. what makes them happy or much more comfortable, well This is what we have to think about when we tell these little magical "lies" to our kids….
Stitched Together says
My parents never told me about Santa, they never pretended he existed but they didn't tell me he didn't either. I never had that "discovery of the truth" moment. I'm glad they did it that way. I think I always understood Santa was a game that everyone played. I later found out that her Mother had told her to do it that way saying "you should never lie to your children, they will resent you for it". I think it was an usual way of doing things, but for our family I think it was right.
I love that it is so clear that boy knows who he is – what a blessed Mama you are. And I love that he is so gentle with you and Lo's need to believe 'a little bit' now that he has accepted the truth.
My husband and I tried to "not lie". When our son asked, we said that some people believed in Santa but his presents came from us. His grandmother, however, insisted that Santa was real and our son loved his grandmother very much. So…. Now grown, he tells us he never believed. But there were a couple of Christmases when he really wanted to believe. And I was glad that he did.
Yes, Boy, there is a Santa Claus – in your parents' loving hearts and in yours.
Michelle L. says
Sweet and rueful and hilarious post, Michele! I really love the revealed bits of your boy's personality you allow us – what a lovely decided character he has. My childhood, growing up Jewish, was a kind of shared Santa secret: my parents told me that the other kids believe in Santa but no, he wasn't real. Mom told me never to tell my friends the truth because the idea of Santa was important to them. So I never told, and loved watching my friends believe.
Sew Create It - Jane says
What a great post…thank you for sharing a little of your magic with us!
My heart is melting. You have shared the dilemma all parents must face at one time or another in a beautiful, poetic and magical way.
I am very much like "The Boy" in my preferences for real over fantasy – at least as far as cartoons and comics are concerned. Never was a fan. And i would much rather honker down with a gook historical piece than a fictional story.
BUT I do believe in Santa! And I hope that in some part of his heart he will too , like me and you and Lo -always .
Juliet A says
My youngest is 16 so there is no belief in much of anything in my house these days. However, I remember when I was a Girl Scout leader, and the topic came up at a meeting. I told them that in Girl Scouts, we respected other people's beliefs even if we didn't agree with them. I pointed out that I didn't believe in Jesus (I'm Jewish), but I didn't expect any of them to change their beliefs because of me, and I expected the same of them in regards to Santa Claus.
Whether something is a question of myth or of faith is very personal. When my kids asked about the reality of Santa, I admitted that most of the presents under the tree were from us (parents) or other family members, and if Santa didn't bother to stop by, it is because they didn't ask for the kinds of toys that elves make (i.e. rag dolls, wooden trains); they wanted the kind that are sold in stores, and it would be illegal for Santa to distribute them. I told them that was true for most of their friends, too, which is why a lot of people, even grown-ups, stop believing – because they want store-bought stuff and not elven goods. I told them that Santa didn't really need to visit that many houses, just the really needy ones, and that they should be grateful that they have parents that can take care of them and give them a nice Christmas.
I also told them that parents like the idea of Santa bringing presents for their kids, even if they are too wealthy to need Santa to come visit, so they pretend, and it is nice when the kids pretend too.
Little Treasures says
You mean to say that there really isn't Santa??? I mean really?? Because I still believe in him:)
My son (age 7) started suspecting that there isn't any Santa last year and this year some of his friends busted the myth, so I had to tell the truth eventually. He wasn't disappointed though. I told him that I love believing in that good old man bringing joy all over the world and how important it is we don't tell his younger cousins about the truth so that they might enjoy Santa a little bit longer. And what happens: a couple of days ago he took a piece of paper to write down to Santa about the presents he wants this year! He gave it to me saying: "you'll make sure he gets it, right?" Isn't that cute?
What do you mean THERE IS NO SANTA?
I've been wondering about this this year. Max is soooo into Santa, etc. We totally play it up, too. I've been wondering about how he'll react when he discovers the truth. I don't want him too! 🙂
Melissa Kojima says
Oh, what a lovely Christmas story, Michele. Yes, telling children the truth about Santa is always an interesting experience. I've been approached by little cousins and nieces and nephews and am always reluctant to tell the truth.
Yet, I too, like the boy, really wanted the truth more than the myth. I like your idea of just telling about Santa from the beginning and letting him be an inspiration rather than a lie.
Your boy is so wonderful. I love that he is so firmly planted in the earth and the material world. How wonderful to hear about a child who loves documentaries. I love them, and I too love my animations—the best of both worlds—reality and fantasy.
Melissa Kojima says
BTW, I forgot to say I love your Santa and his quilled beard.
Kids are so unique and they all come to the world with their own understanding. My son was a bit like your one, he was very small when he confronted me and made me confess that there was no tooth fairy.
Lala Mama says
Kids are wiser than they let on sometimes. My daughter is not even 4, but she already knew the Santa visiting at daycare isn't for real.
Love that Santa craft!
I think it depends so much on the child. Your boy reminds me of my nephew and also my good friend's little boy: they are fascinated by the real world, and figuring out how that works – all its wonders – is more important to them than suspending disbelief for fantasies and myths. My son (although he's so tiny still it's hard to tell for sure) seems to love make-believe, stories, other worlds – he loves fairy stories and imaginary creatures. He even makes imaginary sandcastles! He doesn't seem to mind (yet) the conflict between this and what he knows about the real world, and is more interested in "pretend". I see myself in him!
Having said that, my mum as a single parent who refused to be denied the joys of Christmas stockings, told my brother (5) and myself (6) about Father Christmas when we were little, so that we could take on that role ourselves! We loved being Father Christmas! And I still love doing my mum's stocking to this day.