I never believed in Santa Claus. I never got the chance. You see, I have an older brother and sister.
With older siblings, those types of fictions don’t settle in. Easter Bunny. Tooth Fairy. Even ol’ St. Nick and his most famous reindeer of all — no match for big brothers and sisters.
Santa isn’t real, you know. That’s how the bubble is commonly popped.
Actually, as I think back on it, I don’t think my older sister or brother ever believed in Santa Claus to begin with. It was always known that Christmas gifts came from our parents. Moreover, my brother usually knew where said presents were hidden and had no qualms about poking holes in wrapped parcels and tightly tied bags. He would then tell you what you were getting — whether you wanted to know or not. (Now this, this I had a problem with. You’re ruining the surprise, man!)
Santa Claus was never really issue. Until now.
My son is not yet 2. He’s still a tad young to fully grasp the whole Christmas deal. Oh, he enjoys the tree. That’s certain. In fact, he tried to embrace the prickly thing when we first brought it home on the weekend. But the rest of it — the music, the gifts, the food, the traditions — hasn’t registered yet.
While decorating the tree, my husband and I started talking about the roly poly man in red. The idea of, but more, belief in him. My husband’s stance is this: Don’t lie to your kids. When you tell them that Santa Claus is real, that’s exactly what you’re doing.
“You don’t have to lie to them to have fun at Christmas,” he said.
That’s how it went down in his house. He and his siblings were in on the make-believe of it. The fun of it. They would leave milk and cookies out on Christmas Eve night … but knew exactly who enjoyed those sprinkled sugar treats after they went to their beds. Zanta (the name my father-in-law goes by at Christmas).
Zanta was quite serious with his gig, too. I’ve heard the stories of how he often climbed the roof Christmas morning and stomped around, much to the delight of his three kids inside. And then, of course, they would collectively roll their eyes. “Go tell Dad to get down already,” they’d beg their mother.
Like I said, I’ve never given much thought to Santa Claus, and certainly not in the way my husband framed it. He feels, and quite strongly, that when you lie to your kids about Santa at some point they will find out the truth.
“And then what are you going to say to them?” he said, a serious look spilling across his face. “Maybe they’ll laugh it off. But maybe not. Maybe they’ll feel a little betrayed and start to wonder if you’ve lied to them about other things.”
“Come on, hon,” I said, waiting for him to crack a smile. “It’s not that deep. I doubt anyone goes into therapy after finding out about Santa.”
He agreed. The Santa myth isn’t something that will mess your kids up for life. And, yes, he also conceded that they’ll eventually get over finding out that those letters to the North Pole are really in a keepsake box in the attic. (Or more likely File 13.)
We also chuckled about the extent to which some parents go to keep the lie alive. How do they explain the fact that Santa Claus is at all three malls anyway?
Then he said something that put our talk into finer focus: “It really is about the lie. Ultimately, it comes down to what kind of relationship you want to have with your kids.”
I paused before adding another candy cane to the branch and let that last line sink in. Although my husband and I came at Kris Kringle from very different directions, we definitely meet in the middle about the life we want to build for our son. The kind of parents we hope to be. And lying is not part of the program.
Guess we already know who’ll be stomping on the roof a few Christmases from now.