Spoiler Alert: If you have any young children who are all about Santa, and you are allowing them to read this blog then, first of all, your children have very strange taste in reading material and your parenting skills are thus called into question. Second, get them into the other room now because it is time for the adults to talk.
Are they gone?
I know a lot of parents struggle this time of year with what I shall ever so covertly call The Santa Conundrum for those who have still not removed their kids from the line of sight of the computer screen (Seriously? Can't you send them into the other room or something? Just suddenly exclaim, "Oh, no, all that chocolate cake I left out in the kitchen is going to go bad if someone doesn't eat it right away!"). They worry whether or not this year will be the year that their kids figure it all out. With children of various ages, the added pressure of keeping the oldest from spoiling the good time of the younger ones. Too often, the jaded, experienced eldest child lashes out over being lied to and ruins the ending for the little siblings.
"The psychiatrist is a ghost the whole time," they might shout. "Also, there's no Santa."
My wife and I, too, have pondered how we will react when our kids finally reach the age when they no longer buy the Santa schtick. Two years back, I thought they had us dead to rights when they kept asking, "Are you and mom really Santa?"
I deftly answered their question with a few of my own (a classic parenting technique). "How could I be Santa? You think I could get all those presents all over the place in one night?"
This stemmed the tide of inquiry, but I could still see the doubt in their faces. They were waiting for some sort of proof. They knew I would slip up eventually and then they would have their answer. So, my wife and I began our discussion. In the end we decided that, when the day comes, our explanation to our children will go something like this (feel free to use it on your own kids):
"Boys, it's true, we have been giving you those presents all these years. But the reason we pretended it was Santa Claus wasn't at all because we wanted to trick you. It was because we didn't want credit. You see, boys, we wanted to see the joy on your faces without you having to thank us. We wanted to give you gifts without you ever knowing that they were from us. That is a wonderful way to experience Christmas and maybe if you have your own children one day, you will understand what it is like to give without any expectation of acknowledgement. After all, Christmas isn't about getting. It's all about giving."
We would then put our arms around one another and smile in smug satisfaction before adding, "Oh, and Jesus is also the reason." (We are Catholic, after all, feel free to remove this part if your faith differs)."
After masterfully preparing this speech, it just so happened that "Santa" came through with the Lego Death Star for them for Christmas that year, fully assembled on our dining room table. Since they reasoned that their old man couldn't have possibly put it together over the weeks preceding Christmas while still hiding it somewhere from them (a task I'd like to see Santa pull off), their faith in Santa was suddenly renewed. They were even convinced (by a certain older child in our home who may or may not be me) that Santa must have magically endowed the minifigures with the ability to move overnight so that they could assemble the Death Star like miniature plastic Star Wars themed Egyptian slaves while he scarfed down cookies and milk and went on his merry way.
Two years later, the belief structure holds strong. Their belief in Santa is so firmly cemented in their minds, in fact, that upon adopting the new tradition of "The Elf on the Shelf" this year, my sons burst immediately into tears when my wife inadvertently touched the somewhat creepy looking doll. They thought that in doing so she had removed its magic.
While I never want to see my kids cry, it was a powerful reminder that the magic of Christmas lives on in their hearts. The potential tragedy was explained away easily enough when I told them their mother's innocence was lost long ago and that she had no power over the elf's magic because of it.
Of course, that left some more explaining...mostly to their mother.
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