He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice … well, OK, that’s not true
“We’re trying to prove that Santa is not real!”
Oh, really? “Why would you do that?”
“Because the reindeer don’t die. Because he doesn’t die. How does he even stay alive for so long?”
Um, I don’t know, buddy. How is it that you’re 8 and still believe this stuff? And why don’t you ask me directly if he’s real or not?
“How do the reindeer even fly?”
“You know, magic …” This is not an answer I’m comfortable with, considering that I’ve gone to considerable lengths to emphasize that monsters aren’t real, magic is not real, ghosts are not real, witches are not real. (I’ve already gotten into trouble with that last one, when a little girl informed me that my son had “insulted her religion” by declaring that witches do not exist at the cafeteria lunch table. But I digress.)
In the ’70s, I found out all of this was fake in kindergarten because I didn’t believe the Tooth Fairy could be real unless she was some sort of bony material fetishist. I wasn’t buying my mother‘s explanation that she was building a house out of nasty little baby teeth, so I set a trap for my grandmother.
“When Mommy and my aunt and uncle were little, and they lost a tooth, did you used to put money under their pillows?”
“Yes!” she replied, eager to please her first grandchild.
“Then there’s no Easter Bunny and no Santa Claus!” And that was the first time I saw her turn white. (Later occurrences weren’t until high school, when I developed a penchant for arguing about politics and religion with women in their 70s.)
Despite knowing the awful truth at the age of 6, I don’t recall being particularly alone in my knowledge with my peers. Other kids knew. Perhaps growing up without seat belts or unleaded gasoline in clouds of secondhand smoke made us tougher. And more perceptive.
The only person I do know in my age group who believed in Santa for long was my own husband. He believed until he was 9 years old. But I don’t fault him for this. He’s Jewish and never actually got a visit from Santa Claus. No one bothered to tell him there was no Santa, and he wasn’t really thinking about him a whole lot.
But from my own kids, I’ve expected a little more thought to go into all of this. Technically, we are bringing them up Jewish. Because I grew up Catholic, we have been raising our sons to “help Mommy celebrate Christmas.” That means we get a menorah and a tree and dreidels and visits from Santa.
And since they get annual visits from the guy in the red suit, they also get Mommy’s high expectations that they are going to be analytical enough to blow the lid off this hoax by fourth grade. Or at least before puberty.
I came very close to telling my son the truth last night, since he is hovering so close to the answer. But he has not yet made the leap himself. I decided to wait.
Once again, I found myself saying, “He’s real.” But have I gone over the line? It would have been a great night to affirm that his suspicions were true. It was just us, and the five-year-old was out and about with Dad.
It was a great opportunity to indoctrinate my older son into the ranks of Grownups Who Know the Lie and Stay Silent.
Instead, I stayed silent. I know the Lie. My only solace is that we don’t own an Elf on the Shelf.
How does anyone explain that thing once their kids wise up?
When will you let your kids know about Santa? Have they already figured it out? Does the Elf creep you out? How long do kids these days believe in Santa, anyway?