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Yes, The Young One, There IS a Santa Claus. YES. THERE IS.

Recently my friend Gretchen wrote about the apprehension she experiences when she thinks about having the “there is no Santa” conversation with her young son when the time comes.

She’s completely justified in this.

I originally posted the following in August 2008, and it is extremely fitting for this time of year.  It basically recounts what is probably my biggest parenting fail (although I’m sure if you asked any of the kids, they could reel off an entire list of them).  But even if it wasn’t the worst, it’s one of those memories every parent has that makes them cringe whenever they think about it.

So, just do yourself a favor and think about how you’re going to tell your kids there is no Santa…or take the easy way out and never tell them at all.

(For the record, the child in question has turned out to be a reasonably well-adjusted human being.  Although he will NOT hesitate to tease me mercilessly about this.)

(Oh, and I’ve adjusted their ages for the purposes of keeping this current.)

~~~~~~

Beloved and I have 5 kids between the two of us – their ages are 28, 25, 23, 20 and 17; the oldest and youngest are boys and the middle three are girls.  We’ve been through this, and while I can’t vouch for Beloved, the most traumatic of the “There is no Santa Claus” conversations for me have been the first and last…probably because they were the first and the last.

When Oldest Son was about 8 years old – maybe as young as seven – his father and I told him the truth about Santa Claus.  I don’t really remember why; perhaps he’d heard something from the kids at school, or maybe we’d just decided he was old enough to know the truth.  Telling Oldest Son anything has always produced one of two reactions – grave contemplation, characterized by a slight frown and furrowing of his brow, or complete skepticism, denoted by the downturn of one corner of his mouth and the raising of the opposite eyebrow.  (As a teenager he expanded on that repertoire with a completely blank stare that was surprising in its eloquence:  “Yeah, Mom – just keep yelling at me…it’s all going in one ear and right back out the other…”)  The Santa Claus Revelation produced the Grave Contemplation response, whereupon he immediately retreated to his video games to mull it all over.

Maybe two or three hours passed when he approached his father, and with a completely hopeless and dejected countenance, said, “Dad…the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy too?”  We felt absolutely awful until we found out that he turned right around and – you guessed it – spilled the beans to his 4-year-old sister.

It wasn’t anything, though, compared to that same discussion with his little brother.  Fast forward 12 or so years, and The Young One and I are in my car, driving from Euless, a suburb of Ft. Worth, to downtown Dallas to pick up Oldest Son and bring him back to our place for a couple of days (probably so he could do his laundry).  If I remember correctly, it was early October and the initial “Holiday Season” onslaught of toy commercials was just beginning.  The Young One was 9 years old, and happily chattering away, something he does exceedingly well to this day (both the “happy” and the “chattering”).  Before I knew it, the subject of what he wanted for Christmas came up and somewhere in there the words “I hope Santa Claus brings me” were uttered.

I was a little taken aback – somewhere, somehow, my middle-aged and over-tired brain dredged up an obviously false memory of having laid this subject to rest the year before.  I shot a quick glance at him as we bulleted down I-35 towards the Mix Master, and uneasily said, “Uh…dear?  You know there isn’t really any Santa Claus, don’t you?”

He turned a startled and stricken face to me.  “Huh?  What???”

“Honey, you know Santa Claus is really Mommies and Daddies, right?”

He gave me an incredulous stare for maybe five seconds and then burst into anguished, wracking tears.  I was at a complete loss – never in my wildest dreams had I thought I’d get such a reaction, no matter how wrong I was in my assumption or how disappointed he might be.  It took him a couple of minutes, but he finally calmed down enough for me to say, “Honey – I’m sorry!  I thought you knew!  Haven’t the other kids in school been telling you there isn’t any Santa Claus?” (He was, after all, in the fourth grade.)

“Yes – but I believed YOU!” he cried, and began sobbing uncontrollably again.  “I’ll NEVER be able to trust you ever AGAIN!”

I have to tell you – I’ve had people say some truly horrible and crushing things to me before (*cough*ex-husband*cough*), but nothing has ever made me feel as awful as that did.  I had visions of being dragged, against my will, on Oprah and having Dr. Phil declare me the most insensitive and unfit parent in recorded history while the audience beat me with copies of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care.

Fortunately, Oldest Son and Darling Daughter have a marvelous relationship with The Young One, despite their age differences, and he adores and worships them both.  Once I had Oldest Son in the car, he was able to begin damage control and had The Young One calm enough for Darling Daughter (master of the “Let’s See How We Can Use This To Our Advantage” school of thought) to take over by the time we got home and really work on him (I’m sure it was she who pointed out to him that Parents are far more easily manipulated accessible than Santa Claus could ever be).

I think he even learned to trust me again.  Or at least wrangle an XBox out of me.

 


8 comments

I remember this post! I’m also being very careful this year since Sprite’s older cousin likes to taunt her and I’m sure he’s going to drop the “Santa isn’t real” bomb this year. And for that, I will hurt him.
I never got to believe in Santa when I was younger. I like that Sprite believes in him, for that means she believes in magic, something so many adults have no idea how to anymore.
Long live Santa and all he represents!

Linda says:

Ah, this post made me cry… sniffle sniffle. There is nothing worse than feeling like you let your kid down, is there? I remember when Zeff found out there was no Santa- his first words were- If there is no Santa, then who brought me that Red Bike when I was 5??? LOL

Lori says:

I remember this post and it touches my heart today just as it did when I read it the first time. Since I’ve already been around the Santa block a time or two or five and am now smack in the middle of it with our little’s, I so appreciate this post. I like that my little’s believe and want them to believe as long as possible…because there really is something so magical about believing. Yet my heart breaks for all the little one’s that have nothing to believe in because Santa will not be coming to their house and if he does he won’t be bringing very much. Just seems so unfair. Our family is very blessed in that we’ve had secret Santa’s that have made sure that our little’s have a magicall Christmas morning. My prayer every year is that all family’s have a secret Santa or two to bless them. It’s the secret Santa’s that are the real Santa’s in this world and really they are the true meaning of this holiday in the first place and they keep me believing in Santa Claus!

Gretchen says:

I’ve decided that I will never tell him. Ever. This post frightened me that much.

MamaBadger says:

And this is why I never wanted the boys to “believe” to begin with. Sigh. But now they do. They are invested. And while I think it’s adorable that LG is getting so excited, this post fills me with dread. He’s a pretty earnest kid. Who am I to let him down?

I’m with Gretchen. I think mum will be the word with Princess Nagger as long as possible. She’s already suspicious since her best friend has been trying to convince her there is no Santa, that the mom’s buy all the gifts. PN has even accused me of such, but I *think* I’ve been able to convince her otherwise, with the absence of a red suit and beard. ;) Could be she’s humoring me, though…

Be says:

I think that you and Gretchen are on to something here. If you ALWAYS and FOREVER believe, let THEM be the ones to humor you. What a sweet turn of the tale is that?

Maura says:

My ten year old just confessed he knew I was Santa this year. We’d been very suspicious that he was hedging his bets anyway – just in case knowing Santa doesn’t exist means that you get NO presents from Santa but I’d decided to play along until he led the way to knowing the reality.

This year his Santa present was a new Nintendo 3DS and he played along until two days ago. Then he’s showing me something mind-numbing on the 3DS and I’m sort of grunting and nodding at appropriate moments. Then he pipes up with “I’m really glad you got me the aqua blue 3DS. It’s my favorite color.”

I had to stop a moment and think. “Don’t you mean Santa got you the aqua blue one?”

He sticks one hand on a hip, rolls his eyes and uses a tone of voice that seems to imply that I’m clearly lacking in basic intelligence. “Look. I KNOW it’s you.”

I laughed and confessed but asked him for details. He claims that he’s sure Grandpa (with a HUGE sweet tooth) eats the cookies and drinks the milk, Grandma (health food conscious) eats the carrots, and I take care of the present and stockings.

When I asked him if it could be Dad doing the presents and stocking, I got a laugh and another disdainful look. “Dad is not sneaky enough to be Santa.”

The whole family cracked up at this – at least he’s the youngest so he doesn’t have anyone to spill the beans to. Though I did have the talk about not ruining the magic for other kids.

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