Santa’s Day of Reckoning

December 19, 2007

Let me preface this entry with a revelation so alarming that you may just want to sit down: It’s possible that Tim was right about this. (And yes, Tim, I’ve said it in a public forum for all the world to see. Merry Christmas.)

For those of you who know me, you know that I am surprisingly unsentimental regarding my children’s milestones. For someone who can cry at a coffee commercial (That one where Peter comes home for Christmas? Gets me every time. Though I’ve always wondered about the age difference between Peter and his little sister. Or is it his daughter from a high school relationship gone sour? But then I digress…), I rarely summon up the tears other mothers seem to have at their children’s growing up “moments.” First steps? With Abby I was so excited for her that she had a whole new world to explore on foot — with the twins, I was horrified at the prospect of that new world, but certainly not sad. First day of school for my last two kids? I was all “Yippeeeee!” while others wept for their babies gone all day long. Honestly, I love my kids even more as they get older and as they encounter each milestone. I find great joy in their growing up into the people God has designed them to be.

But then there are firsts, and then there are lasts, I suppose.

How did we get here, I ask myself. I, who have screwed up many-a-thing parental, have at least always striven to be scrupulously honest with my kids. Yes, it means that we’ve had some uncomfortable conversations earlier than some people might with their kids, but I’m a crummy liar and I do believe in the inherent power of the truth setting us free and giving us perspective.

Years ago, before it was even relevant, Tim purported that we shouldn’t have the kids believe in Santa, because of the very notion of truth. If we lie to them (wow, “lie” seems strong, doesn’t it) about Santa, then why should they believe us about God, Tim said. But the years passed, and the kids so wanted to believe, and we (or at least I) didn’t want to disabuse them of the idea of such magic. Oh it will be kind of a gradual understanding, I reasoned. It’s not like we’ll have to have one terrible conversation. This coming from the woman who remembers the exact moment when I realized that Santa (and by extension the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy) wasn’t real — it was the summer between second and third grade at a pool at Hueston Woods State Park.

Why should my kid be any different than I was?

This morning, before school, Rob asked me the point blank questions about Santa. I hedged. I hemmed. And then I told him. I tried to sell it as a “Hey, you get to be in the Big People Club now, and you can help other younger kids pretend,” but he saw that for the load of crap it is. “How could Santa have flying reindeer?” he asked me and himself. I could see him struggle with his logical side and his desire to believe. “It’s just your parents, right?” he questioned, looking me straight in the eye.

Well, no, not just your parents, I told him. It’s the miracle of so many people who love you. People who want to give you love and presents. God who loves you enough to bless you with these people who love you so very much. And he got that, I really believe he got that.

But the sadness and resignation on his face.

“You okay, dude?” I asked quietly.

“Yeah,” he sighed with the weight of one too many truths about life. “I just really wanted him to be real.”

And oh, if in that moment I could have done anything to make him real, I would have.

My other two kids have had the more gradual dawning of understanding. But Rob is a lot like me, very black and white, right and wrong, good and bad in his thinking. He sat in my lap for a bit while I hugged him, and as I write that sentence, I realize that his lap days are numbered. He wasn’t angry at me about Santa, and he doesn’t seem to have any confusion about Jesus being quite real while Santa is not. Heck, I don’t know if we screwed up on this Santa thing, or if allowing them to believe was simply a fun addition to Christmas festivities. I do know that Rob will have a great Christmas and will be caught up in all the excitement of the season. I know, better than Rob, that the love from God and family is far more wonderful than anything we can pretend.

I just wish that someone had told me yesterday that it was the last day Rob would believe in Santa.


11 Responses to “Santa’s Day of Reckoning”

  1. I’d just say, “Well, Rob, Santa is kind of like Jesus. We all want him to be real, but when we get older, we find out that it’s all make believe.”

    Actually, I wouldn’t say that at all.

    Actually I have nothing non-snarky and/or inoffensive to say at this point, so I’ll just go away now.

  2. Beth said

    Luckily you haven’t been snarky or offensive up to this point. Whew…thank goodness for that. 🙂

    (When in doubt let the emoticon soften your own snarkiness.)

  3. kjames said

    i’m not all that teary about milestones either, but when they stop believing in santa i will be sad. that being said…

    lying or not, swear your kids to secrecy because simon still totally believes and i don’t want kids telling him that santa is not real!!!

  4. Oh, gracious, Karen. Don’t let him around our kids. Xiu Dan doesn’t even believe in Santa. None of my kids ever did.

    As far as I know, they don’t feel robbed. Maybe it will come out in counseling some time in the future…

  5. By the way, and for the record, I’m with Tim on the “not lying to our kids.” I know. I’m a grinch…

  6. Julie Workman said

    You know Beth, my kids’ dad has always told them that Santa is not real. They choose to believe. It is magical – with or without Santa….

    Merry Christmas!

  7. I was good, wasn’t I? Five hours with your kids and no mention of the Big Lie. I deserve a freaking medal.

  8. kjames said


    i grew up knowing santa wasn’t real. they’ll be fine! no really! i promise none of my issues came from my knowledge of the lack of santa. 😀

    i think it’s fun to have santa as a part of the magic of christmas. i wouldn’t go to the ends of the earth to prove he’s real, but as long as my kids believe, i’ll play along.

  9. bethkoruna said

    You’re my hero, John. You’re the wind beneath my wings.

  10. Andy Whitman said

    Wind beneath my wings? I am teaching my children that Bette Midler does not exist.

  11. Beth said

    But Andy? You’re everything I ever wanted to be. And I could fly higher than an eagle…esp. if I have a glass of wine or two.

    And Merry Christmas to you Julie! I’m glad to be getting to know you and your wonderful kids.

    Merry Christmas too, Karen.

    And John, you too, even if you don’t participate in the Big Lie.

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