I’ve always struggled with telling my kids about Santa Claus. I have to look away when I answer their questions, and I try to layer in at least a shred of truth.
I don’t know how he does it. I guess it’s magic.
I’m not thrilled about this.
It’s the only time I lie to them.
And I think it has ramifications.
How can we scoff at their “ridiculous” idea of monsters in the closet when we’re telling them outright that a man comes into our house through the chimney at night while they’re sleeping.
Kids are smart. They know if a good man can enter the house without permission, then a bad man can too.
Then there’s the inevitable heartbreak I’m setting them up for when they discover Santa is not only unmagical, but he doesn’t exist at all. It’s not an easy let-down; usually, the news is delivered by a schoolmate who is eager to watch the grim transformation spread across my kids’ faces, just as it did his own.
And who’s the first person they come to to verify their painful discovery? Me, the head accomplice in the fabrication, the originator of the snow-white lie.
A crack in my perfect dad armor.
I have to find some way out of this.
I can’t go around dissing Santa. He’s everywhere.
And I don’t want my kids to be the ones that ruin it for everyone else.
What to do?
My mom kept it going through high school. She’d hand us gifts that said “from Santa” in her handwriting, wrapped in wrapping paper she kept in her hamper. She’d gently kick the present over to us from under the tree and raise her eyebrows as if she didn’t know where it came from.
It was never the best gift but it was always something unexpected, something we didn’t ask for.
And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me smile, even as a nappy-headed, sleep-hungry teenager who was always on the verge of leaving the house.
As a kid, even when you know something can’t be true — werewolves, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus — there’s a little piece of you that wonders if it is.
In growing up, that little piece disappears. In time, we look under the stage and behind the curtain. We lock ourselves in our rooms to check the closets and look up our sleeves.
We stay up late to deliver cookies and wish lists, hoping to be the first one to see the Big Man.
Alas, we never find the magic we’re looking for. That’s the hard part in all of this.
But perhaps that’s the good part too: seeking something that defies all the rules and laws we work so hard to understand.
Maybe the disappointment is worth it for the wonder.
To believe something that just can’t be true.
That kind of thinking makes us stay up late, get up early, and ask silly questions. It allows us to continue walking when we’re tired, to create love out of loss, to build castles out of sand, and to keep our kids smiling through divorce.
Sometimes The Truth is less helpful than our belief in magic.
That’s something Santa would say.
I mean, if he existed.