“Is Santa real or do those gifts come from you?”
She was young for this question, we thought — age 5 or 6 — and by mutual unspoken consent, we (her parents) attempted deflection . . .
“Why do you ask? Did someone at school say something?”
“No,” she said. “I just want to know.”
“Are you sure you want us to answer that question directly? I don’t want you to feel disappointed by what you hear.”
And so on.
She burst into tears — this child who typically was so easy-going about most things and rarely cried except at the prospect of needle injections.
And through her tears, she insisted, “I just want you to tell me the truth!”
So we did — with, as it turned out, absolutely no regrets.
I had never been fully invested in the Santa myth, but it was a fun and harmless sort of childhood “magic” that I happily perpetuated. I love surprises (giving and receiving them), and I love gift-giving, and Santa was a playful aspect of parenting.
I didn’t anticipate what kind of magic would emerge once she was more fully included in the “truth” of the holiday gift-giving “magic” instead of being merely its recipient. Our truthful revelation didn’t ruin that magic. She became part of it . . . and is still, to this day. We share the joy of knowing and protecting someone else’s surprise, of selecting a just-right treat for a loved one, of sustaining now-beloved family traditions.
The truth didn’t destroy the magic. It made it even better.
May you, too, uncover magical truths in your life.
I love you,
My very wise mother handled this with each of us as we became aware enough to ask the question by telling us the truth and then saying, “Now you can become Santa Claus with us.” We all felt very gown up by being included. I did the same with my children and their response was similar.
You are wise too. Children seem to know when they are not hearing truth.
Laurie S Coltri
What a lovely reframe, Gail – you had a wise parent, indeed!
My sister told me what she had figured out (that Santa was really the parents) when she was about 5 and I was about 3. We then colluded with each other to make sure our parents didn’t figure out that we knew! I think this worked until I was around 9, by which time my parents were pretty sure we knew, but we all kept playing the game anyway and never actually discussed it. -And we still give gifts from ourselves and from Santa. –Ah, families and the dynamics that emerge!
My daughter was about 5 when she asked me the question. I didn’t want to lie, so I told her the truth. My father, who was Mr. Christmas, with one red sock and one green, twinkling vest, Santa watch, and an authentic Ho Ho Ho, was aghast! To this day, however, there are gifts from Santa in stockings and others from Santa Nana under the tree. At one time, as a jewelry craftsman, I only gave hand-made gifts, and there was such joy in creating and giving them. Christmas magic is what we make it. It is my hope that you make magic with your friends and family this season.
I love your reflection, Paige, and the responses offered by others. I have long felt that the best part of the holidays is the giving part. After the Santa myth faded, I created “clues” on the labels to suggest the giver for each package — like “Mr. Stripey” etc. They could seldom guess what was inside. My kids looked forward to the clues, long into their adulthood. It was just fun!