Dave and I agreed early in our parenting journey that we would not lie to our kids regarding Santa. Since our kids were small we've approached the topic of Santa in the same manner that we've approached the topic of sex. Honestly. Without spoiling the fun. For example:
Q: Where do babies come from?
A: Well, when Mommies and Daddies make love sometimes they make a baby.
I love this answer. It's completely honest without giving out too many details. And it spans the ages, growing in relevance as the kids grow in age. The four year old is usually completely satisfied, having no idea what making love means but pleased with the "adultness" of the answer. The seven year old is mostly satisfied (although she suspects there is more to the story) knowing that "making love" involves lots of kissing. The ten year old blushes as he has recently learned some of the gory details. And the thirteen year old....well: "Mom, do you have to call it 'making love'"?
But this post is not about talking to kids about sex; it's about Santa. And how my darling, precocious, seven year old daughter finally busted my Santa "clause".
I never had to tell my boys there was no Santa. Eventually, they just understood. And it all happened in a beautiful, natural process that allowed them to enjoy the magic of Santa without feeling like they were lied to about the whole thing. Here is how it went down.
Q: Is Santa real?
A: Santa is real in the magical story of St. Nicholas and the generous giving that people do at Christmas time.
Again, this answer is truthful without spoiling the fun. In our family, as long as the kids don't understand all of those big words they are allowed to live in the blissful ignorance that is required to believe that Santa could be real. The younger kids are usually satisfied with this answer because all they hear is, "Santa is real blah, blah, blah...". As they get older and can more completely understand the meaning of my words, they get the idea. It all happens very naturally and timely based on their own ability (and willingness) to fully understand the answer. Not to say that they sometimes didn't push the topic:
Q: But how does he fit down the chimney?
A: Well, remember, it's a magical story. And just like all magical stories things happen that don't always happen in real life.
Q: Like Aladdin's magic carpet?
Q: Do you believe in Santa?
A: I believe that the magic of St. Nicholas comes to life every time we give a gift at Christmas time.
Do you see where I'm going with this? I like to think this is an honest answer without being Scroogelike and spoiling the magic. If the kids are young enough or if they still want to "believe" they can. If they are old enough or they are looking for the "truth" they can find it. But I'm not throwin' Santa under the bus. Now, I know my in-laws wish I would quit with the word games and just say it like it is. So they'll be glad to hear that their granddaughter, through stubborn determination and a concerning willingness to see me squirm in my seat, forced me to do just that.
Evie has been asking me about the validity of Santa for about a year and a half now. Maybe more. At least two Christmases. She's seven. She was born on Christmas Eve. So for the past year and a half I have done my very best to side step her questions, knowing that eventually she would get old enough to answer her own questions or at least read between the lines of mine. Alas, this was not to be, and poor old Santa -- he's under the bus.
The other day in the car:
Eve: Mom, it's just the two of us. You have to tell me the truth about Santa.
Eve: And don't say that thing you always say about people giving gifts or whatever. I want the truth!
Me: Santa exists in the magical story of St. Ni....
Eve: No, Mom! I want a yes or a no. Is Santa real? Yes or no.
Me: Well, I believe Santa is real whenever we give generously...
Eve: Mom! That's not a yes or a no! I mean it doesn't make sense! There's no way one man could deliver toys to every kid in the whole world in one night. It's impossible!
Me: Well, it sounds like you've got it figured out then. You can answer your own questions.
Eve: And reindeer can't fly!
Me: You're right. They can't.
Eve: So then he's not real.
Me: You tell me.
Eve: No, mom. You tell me. Is Santa real? Yes or no. That's all. Just yes or no.
Me: (Silence) I'll make you a deal. I'll tell you about Santa if you promise to always tell me about what's going on with you. Like about boys or friends or what's going on at school. Okay?
Eve: Okay, fine. I have a crush on Aidan and I already told you about Carver. (She had recently told us that a little boy had kissed her when we were in Mexico). Okay, Mom. I gave you Carver now you owe me Santa. You OWE me! Is Santa real? Yes or no.
Eve: I knew it! Why do adults lie like that? I mean, it's impossible. No one could eat that many cookies.