I think one of the worst parts of being a parent (a Christmas-celebrating parent, anyway) is having to dish up a valid and logical explanation for lying to your kid(s) about good old Santa Claus for however many years you have been making the shit up. Somehow, "well, all the other parents were doing it" doesn't really cut it. Let's rewind to the early 1980s, when my parents sat me down and told me that Santa Claus didn't really exist. To say I was livid would be an understatement. I think smoke may have actually come out of my ears. I didn't really care that he wasn't real, but I was angry at having been lied to by my own parents, by other adults, by everybody. And for what reason? I told my parents that I would NEVER lie to my kids about Santa Claus. "Yes, you will," my mom replied. What did she know? I marched right upstairs and told my five year old sister the truth so she wouldn't have to believe this charade one second longer than necessary. In my furious state, I didn't even bother committing her response to memory.
Now let's visit Christmas 2000 - our first baby's first Christmas. Did my husband and I get her all kinds of gifts from "Santa?" Of course we did! I remembered my previous vow to never do such a thing, but hey, we won't have to tell her the truth for years and years. She's just a little baby! She doesn't really give a shit who gave her the brand new exersaucer. Besides, what is Christmas without Santa?
Fast forward to Christmas 2002. The baby is now two years old and guess what? There is another baby now! The new sister is four days old and of course the fat guy in the red suit swung by with gifts for the two children.
2004. "Mommy, we don't have a chimmy!!" says the four year old. "No, we don't have a chimney. Houses with our type of fireplace don't have chimneys. Santa knows just what to do. He'll come in the sliding glass door!" It's amazing how the Santa lies just roll right off your tongue. It's so easy, and everyone else is doing it!
2006. "That mall Santa isn't real," says the six year old. "Oh, of course he isn't real. The REAL Santa is up in the North Pole making toys! They send the pretend Santas to the malls so kids can sit on his lap." I am SUCH the smooth talker.
2007. I am tucking the seven year old into bed. "Mommy, is Santa real?" Oh boy. Time to pull a page out of a wise coworker's playbook. Putting the question back on the kid might buy me some time. "Well, what do YOU think?" I don't know what the hell she's thinking, but I'm trying to come up with some more lies about why I need to leave the room. "I think he's pretend and that you and Daddy are buying me the presents." She has cornered me! Kids are too damn smart these days. It's time to give it up. "Well, you're right. Daddy and I are buying the presents." Silence. I can feel the little gears in her mind turning, trying to process the information. "Why do parents tell their kids about Santa?" That's it? No crying, screaming or telling her sister the harsh truth? This is easy! It's so easy that I go on to reveal another terrible piece of the puzzle. "Well, someone just made him up to get their kids to behave." She doesn't have anything else to say. I continue tucking her in and listen for more questions, but she doesn't have any. She falls asleep. Apparently she has repressed the entire discussion or doesn't want to believe it, because a few days later she asks my mother if Santa is real.
2010. "Mom, is Santa real or are you bringing us the presents?" says the almost-eight-year-old. Not again! It was easy to tell the truth to her older sister, but this time I just don't want to admit that Santa is a big fraud. Is it because she is the youngest child? Am I PMS-ing? Whatever, I had better think of an answer, and fast. I decide to resort to the 2007 response. "What do YOU think?" She answers immediately. "I think the parents buy the presents." OK, it's game time. "Well.... you're right. We do buy the presents." And what do you know, she starts crying. She's pissed. "You mean parents TRICK their CHILDREN??" Oh, this is great. Santa, you suck, and whoever invented you sucks 100 times worse than you. I would really like to have a word with this asshole, but I can't, because he's obviously dead. "So this means I'm not going to get a hamster, a guinea pig, and an automatic food transporter???" I had already tried explaining to her that there is no such thing as an automatic food transporter, to no avail. "I'm going to tell my BFF that Santa is FAKE!" Oh no. I am going to be the most reviled mom in the neighborhood as soon as all the other parents find out that MY kid is telling other kids that Santa is fake. "NO! You can't tell her that. It's up to her parents to tell her about Santa." She doesn't like this. "Well, I'm telling her." And as I think about this threat some more, I find that I don't really care. I remember how angry I was 30 or so years ago when I learned the hard facts about Santa, and my chief concern at the time was that my younger sister learned the truth. My daughter doesn't have a younger sibling, but she has friends. So screw it. "OK, whatever, tell her," I say. You go, girl.