The Christmas Nate, my firstborn, my child who has suffered–and continues to suffer–from all my novice mistakes, was six, he looked me right in the eye and said, “Is Santa real, Mom? Tell me the truth.”
And I looked back into his earnest face and couldn’t lie directly to my child. I said, “No, he isn’t.”
And Nate said–and I quote–“How could you, Mom?” And didn’t talk to me about Santa again for about five years.
Flash forward to this year. Toby is a newly minted eight. Right up to Christmas Eve, he was asking Santa-related questions. Lots of them. But I had learned my lesson the hard way, and I deflected, deflected, deflected. The other boys helped me, spinning wild and detailed theories in support of Santa. But even his older brothers’ endorsement fell flat. As Toby was setting out the milk and cookies, he looked at me just as Nate had done, and he said, “Don’t lie to me, Mom. Is there really a Santa?” And I paused. And I weighed. And I had no idea what to do, so I said, “What do you want me to say, Toby?”
And he nodded like a sage little Obi Wan and said, “Ok.”
And we had a great Christmas.
Two days later, he lost a tooth. Or so I found out later, when he told me he’d decided to ‘do an experiment’. He put the tooth under his pillow without a word to me or his dad. The next morning, when the tooth was still there with no evidence of a Tooth Fairy visit, he said, “Now I know.”