Bad Santa

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.”

12 thoughts on “Bad Santa

  1. Oh my gosh, I love this. Same thing happened with Miss D. when she was six, but it was her father she asked and her father who told her the truth. I was furious with him! The next Christmas, Miss D. burst out crying. “I’m so mad at Daddy for telling me that Santa isn’t real!” Hoo-boy. This parenting gig is tough. I love the way you handled it with #2. Must. Remember.

    • For some reason, your recount that your husband made this parenting decision reminds me of the time I went away for a business trip to see that my hubby had buzz-cut Calvin’s (very blonde) hair. He looked like a toddler neo-nazi. And I was furious. (Unrelated, but still.)

  2. I use that same “What do you want me to say?” line with my son.
    With my kids, the oldest took it the hardest and the youngest was pretty matter of fact about the whole thing. This was our first year with no believers. It was kind of weird.

  3. Oh my gosh! I’ve got a santa story for you when we’re back to work. Let’s just say Toby figured it out 3 years before Phoebe.

  4. These types of conversations are a small part of the reason we decided to not do the whole Santa thing with our kids. There was the fear that this might make Christmas less magical, but the look on our children’s faces Christmas morning is reassuring that it doesn’t.

  5. Wouldn’t it be sweet if we all believed in Santa Claus forever…but there’s an even better substitute, and that’s a loving God. Good thing, because without either of them, this world would truly be a sad place!

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