I’ve often pondered the “Santa predicament”. When do you tell your kids that the magical jolly man isn’t real? Is it ok to lie to your children about him? Will this charade cause them to paint Jesus in the same mythical light?
Well, none of these questions really matter now; because, I may have just scarred my oldest child for life. Good thing I get 5 more tries at this…
We planned on playing the game as long as we could. Then, our 6y/o started to ask a lot of questions. A LOT OF QUESTIONS. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was:
“A friend said that Santa is dead and that only his spirit is alive. Is that true?”
“We’ll talk about it on your night to stay up.” I replied. (each of our kids gets one night per week to stay up 15 minutes later than everyone else for one-on-one time)
I hoped that she would forget by then. She didn’t. So, rather spontaneously, I decided to have one of the top 5 most dreaded conversations of parenthood. For the record, I still don’t have a clue how to solve the Santa predicament. However, I now know (and can pass along to you) how not to do it.
I said something to the affect of “Ok. Mommy and Daddy are going to tell you a big kid secret. If we tell you, you can’t tell your friends at school or your brothers or sisters.”
Me: “Because you might ruin a really fun game if you tell them this secret. Are you ready to hear the secret?”
Her: “Yes, Daddy.”
Me: “SANTA’S NOT REAL!!!!” ….just kidding….I didn’t say that….but the result might have been better if I had.
What I really said: “Santa is a fun game that everyone plays at Christmas time. Mommy and Daddy are really the ones who bring the presents and eat the cookies.”
Her (smiling oddly): “Do all the grownups know about this?”
We then talked for a bit. She didn’t sleep much that night. She wasn’t the least bit sad, which surprised both of us. She actually seemed happily excited to know the “big kid” secret.
I was a bit depressed that I had just killed Santa; but, I felt pretty good overall about how things went down.
Then came the questions. Over the next two days she asked a steady flow of questions that didn’t really make sense in light of our previous conversation (mostly the questions were about ideas that should have died with Santa-North Pole, flying reindeer, etc.). Finally one question that she asked flipped the switch on the little light bulb hovering over my head. 6y/o (in a giggly whisper): “So Daddy, who’s on the naughty list?”
Now, all of her questions made sense. My daughter thinks that her mommy and I are the ones who keep the nice and naughty list for all the children of the world; and, are the two very important individuals responsible for traveling the globe to deliver presents to those whom we deem worthy. There is no Santa because Mommy and Daddy are Santa. OOPS.
Tonight (Christmas Eve), she was more excited than ever to put out carrots for the reindeer. I just haven’t figured out a way to fix my embarrassing failure yet. Perhaps next year….because now I face a new, more painful, dilemma. Not only did I have to kill Santa-now I have to kill the awesome dream of her Daddy as a Christmas superhero. Bummer.
The moral of the story: if you are going to have the Santa talk with your kids, rehearse a bit before you ignorantly ramble on about how Mommy and Daddy do all the things Santa does. Also, please pray that I don’t also screw up the birds and bees talk. That would REALLY stink.