Letting Her in on the Secret

This Christmas my kids made sure to mail their extraordinarily long wish list novellas to the North Pole.  They decorated plastic desktop Christmas trees to keep in their rooms.  They sung Christmas songs in the car. Over and over again.  As Christmas day got closer they began to wake up earlier and earlier each morning.  Christmas Eve they put dried oatmeal and glitter, better known to children as reindeer food, in the front yard.  Christmas Eve, they put out the “Santa” plate, put a pile of his favorite cookies (chocolate chip of course), poured coffee in his mug (sometimes “Santa” has to stay up and put together toys), wrote him directions on how to use the microwave (for the coffee), and they not only went to bed without the slightest whimper of dissent but actually volunteered to go to bed, excited to see what Santa Claus would bring them in the morning.

Over the past 9 years of having kids, Santa has taken on an obviously integral role during Christmas.  He quells bad behavior (he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake). The mere mention of his name brings about manners, and courtesy, and ends sibling violence. My children’s faith in Jolly St. Nick has given my wife and I back a little bit of what Christmas meant to us as kids.

This is why I will hold Christmas 2011 close to my heart because it is going to be the last Christmas my oldest has with Santa. I have decided to tell my 9 year old the truth about Santa Claus.

My daughter Hannah is a smart, beautiful, sensitive, and caring 9 year old who is on her way to an eventual Nobel Prize win (this opinion may be steeped heavily with a personal bias).  While she is by no means gullible, she is quite trusting of her parents. If we tell her something, she takes it as the truth because I have done my best to be open and honest with her and her sister.

Except for Santa Claus.

Santa Claus has been the one myth I have done more to perpetuate over the entirety of Hannah’s (and her sister’s) life. I have made up excuses, I have crafted lies that would make a politician blush, and I have endorsed her rationale about Mr. Claus for the past 9 years. This year has been the hardest due to the intricacy and depth of her questioning and curiosity. This year she has exhibited behavior that told me she knows the truth deep down but isn’t willing to admit it to herself.

While I could wait for her to discover it for herself but as her father, I am invoking my emergency executive powers of Dad (Article 1: Because I can).  She needs to know the reasons why I never let her in on the secret. First of all, I believe my daughter is smart enough and (at times) mature enough to handle this news. Secondly, it is time to stop lying to her. While I don’t believe this lie will be some sort of gateway drug to her gradual descent into dishonesty or politics, I don’t like lying to my kids. I fear someone in school is going to blurt it out during recess or just to be a jerk and her world will come crashing down around her during Math class.  She is going to be 10 this coming July and I think it’s time she knows an overweight man in his mid-hundreds does not slip in to our house in the middle of the night to leave presents, clearly bought in a retail store, for her.  She needs to know the coffee and cookies she left out were eaten by her father at 2 o’clock in the morning when I finished putting together her toys.  She needs to know that, at 6, her sister does not need to know this secret quite yet.

My wife is worried I am simply going to tell her Santa isn’t real then go to work.  While this thought did cross my mind, I know I have a deeper responsibility than a ‘Shock and Awe’ explanation.  I have a responsibility of explaining to Hannah that Christmas has as much meaning, if not more, without a real Santa.

While I haven’t formulated the exact speech, I am putting the pieces of it together.  I’m hoping she understands why her mom and I lied to her for the past 9 years.  I’m hoping she knows we didn’t do it to hurt her.  I hope she understands why we will continue to keep up the charade for a little while longer for Emma. I hope she understands that Christmas will always be about Santa even if I’m the one eating the chocolate chip cookies. I’m hoping I get across to her that just because Santa doesn’t come to our house shouldn’t suggest his meaning isn’t real. I’m just hoping, above all else, she understands why I thought it was time to let her in on the secret.

To Be Continued…

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10 responses to “Letting Her in on the Secret

  1. I guess that is a true sign of growing up..sad! I hope that conversation goes well, I am so interested in how she takes it. Mine is 7 and I can’t handle the thought of only 2 more Christmases at the moment, but know that it will happen soon enough. This part of growing up is just heartbreaking for me, I always wonder if there will be anger or anything about the fact that there was so much “lying”..Good luck!

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    • I suppose I’m going to find out soon enough. I want to make sure I have the speech down before I tell her because I don’t want to mess this up. I think there will be a little disappointment, hopefully not anger, but she’ll forget about it soon enough and next year she’ll be fine when she sees presents under the tree. I’ll let everyone know though! Thanks for the ‘good luck’ (I’m gonna need it).

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  2. My son will be 9 in February and came to me last year after Christmas and asked me to tell him the truth. He just couldn’t figure out why if Santa brings toys they are sold in stores. We got through the problem with the gift wrap after he found it in the closet by telling he Santa asks parents to wrap because the paper and bows were getting ripped in his sleigh. But nothing we came up with could satisfy him, he is very inquisitive. He loved this year knowing and keeping it a secret around his younger cousins and doesn’t feel that we lied to him as we told him it was a part of being a child and having fun. A little sad that I have no little ones now in the house that believe but we play up more now for our nephew when we see him. Good Luck to you and as one who had to tell…it is not as bad as we think it will be. Happy New Year to you and your family.

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    • My daughter is getting to be the same way. I can see the wheels in her brain turning and I would rather be the one to tell her than have it blurted out by someone else or told to her without an explanation.
      Thanks and Happy New Year to you and your family too!

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  3. You’re a friggin’ GENIUS! Loving reading your blogs!!!

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  4. I can’t wait to hear part two…

    My oldest is almost 6 and kids are already telling him Santa isn’t real. I’ve used it as an opportunity (even though he doesn’t realize it) to introduce the concept of believing… believing and having faith in something isn’t about being “right” or even the facts or what we can prove. It’s about what’s in our hearts and how we see the world.

    I’m glad you are able to have this conversation with your daughter, rather than the dramatic “Oops we got caught” which is what happened to me when I was a kid. My mom was pissed! 🙂

    I’ve often thought about the day when we have to have the same conversation with our son that you’re about to have with your daughter. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to share the story of St. Nicholas and why after all these years, people all across the world keep the magic alive. I hope he’ll feel that he’s graduated to the other side… not just receiving the magic, but sharing it as well.

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    • Graduated to the other side is the absolute best way to describe it. And I don’t want to have that oops moment either at home or at school or anywhere else. I’ll be sure to let everyone know what happened. Thanks Angie.

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  5. I was 9 when I found out…in the manner you want to avoid with your daughter. Kids at school telling me. My Mom picked me up from school that day and the first thing I said when I got in the car was, “Is Santa real?” She told me we would talk about it when my Dad got home from work.

    We did, and I was angry. Not because they “lied” to me, but because I felt stupid. I remember saying, “I feel so stupid!! All those years I woke you up early to tell you want Santa brought, YOU ALREADY KNEW!!! I am so dumb!” They were heartbroken that it happened that way, but it worked out. They explained how seeing the excitement and joy on my face is why they played Santa. How he represents the spirit of giving. I was still sad, but I can honestly say it never ruined the magic of Christmas for me.

    Good luck with your discussion.

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    • Thanks. I think she is going to be fine. I think the spirit of Christmas is more than just Santa and I don’t want her to have to go through that. Thanks for the support. Happy New Year!

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