Friday, December 16, 2016


We don't tell our kids that Santa is real.

I don't have a problem with Santa in general. We've got lots of books about Santa and I don't mind watching a movie about Santa here and there. I think the story is fun. It's like reading Cinderella. I tell the kids that (so the story goes) Santa is so excited about baby Jesus giving us the greatest gift, salvation, that he brings gifts to all the children of the world in celebration.

I do have a moral inclination against telling the children that Santa is real. It's a lie. I don't want to build Christmas on a lie, when the real meaning is so much better. Christmas has always been magical for me and Santa has never had anything to do with that... and as a bonus, I never experienced disillusionment with the holiday when finding out Santa wasn't real. Santa was never real, but Christmas was always wonderful.

This year, William and I have been talking about it a lot. He doesn't understand why some parents tell their children that Santa is real. "Does Santa visit their houses?" William's cousins (who live up north, where we will be this Christmas) are right at that prime Santa age, and I've told William that under no circumstances must we say to them this Christmas, "Santa isn't real," because they believe he is. This is extremely confusing to William. He thinks in black-and-white. Why would their mom tell them that? Isn't that a lie? Is Santa real, or isn't he? I tell him that it's a game that some people play, that a lot of people like to do that, but I don't. And every time, I reiterate the amazing story of the first Christmas. 

But I still don't know if I'm doing it right. I've heard him say everything from, "I wish I could believe in Santa," to, "I hate Santa." 

SO I cringed inwardly when we were shopping in the toy section at Meijer today and Santa walked up! Darn it, I knew this particular employee was going to be playing Santa because he had stopped me two weeks ago in the produce section (I was by myself at the time, but apparently I make enough of an impression every other time, that he remembered I had kids) and had told me he was going to be playing Santa from the 16th to the 18th and that I should bring the kids in to see him. I was all, "oh, you're going to do a great job playing Santa!" And inside I was thinking, yeah, I'm not gonna do that. I'm already trying to navigate this whole issue with my son and I don't want to confuse him by bringing him in to sit on your lap. And when deciding to go to Meijer today, I even remembered it was the 16th and that Santa was supposedly going to be there, but I assumed he would probably have a chair set up in the Christmas section and that we could just skirt on by and avoid it all. Well, there was no avoiding it when we heard the sound of jingle bells and he approached us in the obnoxious vtech aisle. The kids' eyes were very big, especially Will's, who did most of the talking. 

I was polite and encouraged the kids to tell him to have a safe flight. When he told the boys, "I'm going to be visiting you in about a week," I lightheartedly said, "Tell him make sure to come to my Nana's house instead." I tried to be free and easy about the whole thing because I wanted Will to see that it was OK to pretend that this guy was Santa, just like you might pretend that a Ben Franklin imitator is really Ben Franklin. The gentleman asked Will if he had been a good boy, and William replied that he had, and then "Santa" told Will that he had seen him and Barrett being very good boys in the store all year… or at least, his elves had seen him being a good boy. He then asked William what he wanted to get for Christmas, and Will told him that we still needed to wrap the presents and put them under the tree. When Santa pressed him - "What toy do you want for Christmas?" - William hesitated for quite a while before telling him that he just didn't know. We chatted for a couple of minutes and then bid him farewell (but not before he gently poked Neva on the shoulder and made her burst into uncharacteristic sobs of fear... what is it with Santa and babies? I kid you not, an hour and a half later as I was going through the checkout, the same guy came back in his Meijer uniform and chatted with me (the boys were distracted watching a video) and Neva was all smiles and grins at him, even when he poked her in the shoulder again.)

I hope I navigated that whole Santa encounter successfully, I thought.

But tonight, Will triumphantly declared at the dinner table, "Santa is real. Dad, next time you go to Meijer, I want you to see Santa, because he hasn't met you yet."


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