If you’ve convinced yourself that there’s some way you can perpetuate the Santa myth without becoming a giant, fucking liar – let it go. You can’t. You will not make it through the holiday season without sitting on a huge throne of lies – and that’s okay. No one, and I repeat no one I know harbors hate for their parents because of the Santa lie. So stop worrying about it. Seriously, stop. Our parents never worried about this stuff – I guarantee it.
When I was old enough to care, my parents told me there was a Santa. It’s a story I accepted without question, because the concept of someone bringing me gifts once a year was rewarding enough to block out the creep factor of a fat, white, old guy sneaking into my house. I don’t remember being told detailed stories throughout the holiday season. This was the driving narrative: there’s an old guy who lives in the North Pole, surrounded by little people. You can send him a letter and tell him what you want and if you’re good enough, he’ll swing by your house on Christmas Eve. I was directed to the Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer Christmas claymation special. That was enough. I never questioned anything about the holiday season or Santa’s role in my life until one fateful night in the early 80’s.
It was Christmas Eve. I was six years old. I was in bed; alternating between pretending I was asleep to fool my mother who was periodically checking in on me, and jumping to the window convinced I could make out Rudolph’s nose in the night sky. I heard my parents stirring downstairs and quietly made my way to the hall to see what was going on. We had one of those two-story homes that were very popular in California in the 80’s – a giant vaulted ceiling reigning over a staircase that culminated in a landing you could look over from the second floor into the living room. I did a military shrug to the iron rods and peered under the banister, down to the floor below. My parents were discussing something I couldn’t quite make out. My mom was placing a stuffed koala under the tree.
I remember thinking, “cute,” and shrugging back to bed.
I woke in the morning to a lit tree, Santa’s cookies gone, and my mother excitedly showing me what Santa had brought to reward me for being such a good girl all year; a stuffed koala.
I can’t remember exactly what I was thinking at that moment, but I’m assuming it was something like, “my parents are lying assholes.”
I sat down defeated, and focused on the wall in front of me. Santa wasn’t real, my parents were not to be trusted, and that koala was a totally dumb gift.
I remember being specifically dismayed about the koala thing, but I don’t remember there being a running tally of all of the lies my parents had told to perpetuate the Santa myth, because there just weren’t that many. I accepted the Santa narrative and the few tall tales my parents told me; that Santa was a man who would make his way to our house once a year and that I could somehow visit him at the mall.
Seeing Santa sitting on a throne in the mall once a year didn’t present a quandary to my six-year-old brain. I guess had I thought about it, I could have deduced that there were other malls and other Santas – but I never did. Oakridge Mall in a suburban neighborhood in California was the only mall I knew. The Santa who sat in its glorious courtyard was the only one I would ever see. I didn’t question why or how Santa had the time to stop in a shitty mall in a young Silicon Valley. I didn’t think about the fact that he had clones all over the land, and what that meant for his credibility.
I’m already totally lying to my child and I am 100% okay with it. If I do such an amazing job at parenting that the only thing this kid has to mention at therapy is some Santa betrayal, I’ll consider that a win. A big win.
To be honest, I lie all the time because I sincerely feel I’ve earned that right, what with all the keeping my kids alive and wiping their asses and such. Hopefully my kid won’t hold it against me when he catches me with the proverbial koala in my hands.
This essay originally appeared in Scary Mommy’s Guide To Surviving The Holidays.