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…