I am a liar. A big, fat, Santa’s jelly-belly sized liar. I try to be honest in most aspects of life, but when it comes to perpetuating the Santa myth in my house, I weave that lie good and strong. My husband goes along for the sleigh ride, but I’ve never heard him busting out the Santa tales the way I do. Or the Santa threats…but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Apparently there’s a new movement in parenting to be completely forthright, and tell kids from the start that Santa’s not real. In these households, even three-year-olds know. They’re too streetwise for this North Pole crap. Ain’t nobody got time for that silly stuff…and hey Mom and Dad, I know I’m only in pre-school, but why don’t you shoot me a smart phone in my stocking? I guess I get the idea of not lying to your kids, but in this instance, it makes me kinda sad too. Kids grow up WAY too fast nowadays. Can’t we do this one small thing to keep the fun and innocence in childhood?
For me, perpetuating the Santa myth wasn’t even a question. I loved believing in Santa when I was little. It made Christmas so much more exciting and magical. It added a sense of wonder and sparkle to the holidays, that no Christmas since my “discovery” has ever been able to match. I held on to that belief years longer than I truly believed, because I thought abandoning the Santa myth would ruin Christmas. When my older sister basically told me to cut the crap and that I was too old to believe in Santa anymore (which I was) it resulted in a tearful, melodramatic display complete with me shrieking “But I’m just a little girl!” This became a running family joke at my expense for years. I like to think they were laughing with me, not at me.
But even that harsh dose of reality was worth it for all the years of fun. All those fanciful thoughts about what he would put in my stocking. Would he remember that Cabbage Patch Doll I was dying to have, or surprise me with some fantastically perfect gift I didn’t even know I wanted? What would he say in his note? (My dad, a storyteller by nature, wrote epic letters from Santa that somehow thrilled us kids and entertained the adults too). Santa was omniscient, benevolent, comforting and jolly, and he had those amazing flying reindeer to boot. Sacrilege here, I know, but Santa was a god.
With the red-suit in charge, Christmas rocked. So when my kids got old enough to participate in the excitement, I was more than willing to build-up the big guy in their minds. “We have no fireplace, how will Santa get in?” my older daughter wonders. “Well, he can come in doors and windows too.” (Santa is a master B & E artist, after all). “How does Santa know what I want, Mom?”. “Well, he’s always listening, and watching, and we can write him a letter too — just to be sure.” And my favourite question, a statement actually, came this year from her five-year-old mouth: “Mom, there are two great mysteries in the world. One, what exactly made the dinosaurs go extinct, and two, how do Santa’s reindeer fly?”. The juxtaposition of legitimate scientific query and childish wonder had me laughing inside for days. And of course I had answers, even if they were crap: “Um, might’ve been a meteorite or volcano or something for the dinosaurs, but as for the reindeer, they fly with magic dust .” Naturally.
I like to think that I’ve painted Santa in a positive, sparkly light. Yes, they know about the naughty or nice stuff, but I’ve also mentioned that Santa’s pretty forgiving and if you’re mostly a good kid, he’ll drop by. He’s all about generosity, love and joy, after all. Until…until earlier this week when I was feeling particularly crushed by the stress of a billion “to-dos” of the season, suffering from sleep-shortage, and just not in a good place to deal with crap from my kids. This is precisely the time when my three-year-old decides to use her mighty will to refuse to get ready for bed. There are adamant shouts of “No!”, followed by hysterical screaming and flailing, then the super-effective “I will go completely limp” strategy when I try to physically compel her to move. “You are acting very, very naughty right now and Santa will NOT be bringing you any presents!” I bellow. Idle threat, apparently. “I don’t want any presents!” she proclaims with pouty lip. “I’m calling him right now. I’m telling him you don’t want or deserve any presents!” And as I walk to the phone I am already thinking how completely stupid this is. I’ve never won an argument with a toddler yet. But I’m just as stubborn as my kids — they got it from somewhere — and so the script proceeds. I dial five random numbers until the Telus lady starts beaking in my ear about how my call cannot be completed as dialed. I put the phone to my three-year-old’s ear long enough so she can hear there’s a voice, and then tell her it’s Santa’s elf line and I have to leave a message. This is the point where my five year old, whose been silently observing the whole time, starts to freak. “No Mom! Don’t leave a message! She’ll be good! I’ll help her get ready for bed!” I leave the faux message anyway and older sister starts to cry. Three-year-old is completely unfazed. “Why are you crying?” I ask my older daughter. “I didn’t tell him not to bring you any presents.”
“I know Mom, but she gets good toys too, and we can share, so if Santa doesn’t come for her, I only get to play with half as much stuff!” I admire her logic and reasoning, but am also sad she’s apparently got a huge case of the greedy guts…already.
Once three-year-old has calmed down, and come to her own decision that she in fact will get into her pjs and brush her teeth, older daughter implores me to call the elf-line again. So I do. “Hi Santa, it’s Kim. Please ignore my earlier message and keep both my girls on the nice list.” Five-year-old is visibly relieved. Three-year-old still doesn’t care. I, on the other hand, think WTF did I just do? These silly threats and my big show did nothing except taint all the wonder of Santa I’ve been so keen to build. Is this what my daughters will remember about Christmas –anger, punishment and Santa withholding — more than the ideas of generosity and kindness? Plus, I am a bit disappointed that they didn’t even call me on the fact that I don’t make the naughty or nice list — Santa does.
I silently resolve to cut the seasonal Santa threats and try better parenting strategies to get them to behave, for the sake of behaving instead of for the promise of material goods. I will still build the benevolent Santa myth though. There will be cookies eaten, and personal notes with Santa’s signature catchphrase (“Ho ho ho and away I go!”). We’ll watch the Christmas Eve Santa tracker on TV to see how close he is before bedtime, and if it’s not too cold, there might be “reindeer tracks” in the snow to discover Christmas morning.
I’m gonna keep spewing the lie, in the hopes that it’s even half as much fun for them as it was, and is, for me. And as for the fall out when some non-believing kid spills the beans at school? Well, I’ll cross that bridge when it comes. And hope my kids see my good intent in being a big, fat liar.