To Santa or Not To Santa: The Question of All Questions

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So, spoiler alert: Santa Claus isn’t real.

Oops. Were you reading this post aloud to your small child? My apologies for ruining his/her innocence. I have a bad habit of spreading truth at inopportune times. There are about 25 women who still resent me for being That Kid who, in 1990, told their eight-year-olds that Santa wasn’t real. I didn’t get invited to a lot of birthday parties when I was in third grade. I can’t imagine why.

My relationship with Santa has not always been sunshine and lollipops.
(My relationship with Santa has not always been sunshine and lollipops.)

But back to the truth-telling.

Santa Claus isn’t real, but pretty much every child under the age of eight thinks he is. (Except yours. Sorry again about that.) And this Christmas, I am going to perpetuate that myth to C. Last year at Christmas, she was only nine months old so B and I didn’t feel the need to make much ado about jolly ol’ Saint Nick. She was still getting used to the general concept that she was a human, so we didn’t really want to overwhelm her with the idea that a giant elf was going to come down our chimney in the middle of the night and bring her gifts. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far.

This year, things will be different. We’ve been talking Santa up to her and we fully plan on taking her to the mall to sit in his lap even if this time-honored Christmas tradition does put her at risk for contracting some rare flu strain. Starting this year, we will do the whole Santa thing, and once you commit to it, you can’t very well stop. We’re locked in for another solid five to six years. Santa is basically a horrible wireless plan or a really rigid gym membership.

What’s funny to me is that nowadays, the tradition of creating an elaborate scheme to perpetuate the Santa myth is something that a lot of parents struggle over, and rightfully so. Children believe in Santa because the people who work the hardest to make him real are the very people they trust the most: their parents. When you’re three and your parents tell you that you are going to the doctor to get a shot, you believe them (even though you don’t want to.) When your parents tell you that drinking milk is good for you, you believe them too. So when they sit you down and tell you about a kindly, portly old gentleman who lives at the North Pole with a bevy of elves and reindeer whose only job is to make toys for you, you tend to eat that stuff up. It’s as real as a shot but a whole lot sweeter.

Some parents struggle with the perpetuation of that gingerbread-flavored lie, and I have to admit that the nagging Santa question has perplexed me too. Will telling my kid about Santa fixate her on the consumer-driven aspects of the holidays? Will she be motivated to do good only because Santa Claus is coming to town and he’s got his top-of-the-line SpyCam honed in on her? There will come a day when she meets the 2020-equivalent of 1990 Me, and that kid may tell her that what she believed all this time was a big sham. Will she call me out for being a liar? Will I have eggnog all over my face? (See what I did there?)

I don’t think I will. I often worry about betraying my daughter’s trust, and I know that there will come a day when she questions every single thing I say and do. Teenagers, anyone? The thing is, she is going to be faced with existential dilemmas throughout her life, most that are a lot tougher than the realization that Santa isn’t real. Kids are smarter than we often give them credit for, and they don’t break into pieces when they find out the real meaning behind “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” It’s a rite of passage.

So we’ll do Santa, if for no other reason that I want to finally be the one to eat those cookies she’ll leave out on a plate for him. Once again, it appears sugar will make a liar out of me.

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