Parenting

We Told Our Oldest Child The Truth About Santa

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This is the year we told our oldest child the truth about Santa.

Over the last few months, our 9-year-old has been peppering us with questions, and honestly, I didn’t have any really good answers.

“How can the man we visit every year be the real Santa? Why would Santa have a home in Mount Juliet, Tennessee?”

“We don’t have a chimney. How does Santa get in? The front door? Wouldn’t the door chime wake us up? Does he disable our alarm system? Who gave him the code?”

“How come Santa brings toys we can buy in Target? What are the elves even for if Santa gets the toys at the same place where we buy underwear and Goldfish crackers?”

In response, I defaulted to canned responses about how he needed to decide for himself what the answers to these questions were. I knew in my Mama heart that it was time to invite our boy to become part of the Christmas magic, and tell him the truth about Santa Claus.

A few years ago, I saw a story about a beautiful letter that a mother wrote to her daughter to explain the truth about Santa.I took inspiration from her idea, and I sat down at my computer and wrote a special letter for my son. When it was done, I folded it, put it in my purse, and told him to get his shoes on.

I took him on a surprise one-on-one dinner date, and I let him choose any restaurant he wanted. Over a shared plate of Olive Garden calamari, I handed my baby a letter containing the truth about Santa.

I started by singing his praises, reminding him of all the brave, smart, kind things he has done recently. Then I acknowledged how tough it must feel to be a big kid, realizing that some of the magical things he always believed aren’t really possible. I recognized that the fantasy series that he reads and the magical movies he watches don’t feel possible anymore, and that’s okay. “It just means you’re growing up,” I wrote.

Then I shared the truth about Santa with my boy who suddenly looked so tiny sitting across from me in his green sweatshirt, his round cheeks covered in adorable freckles.

“Santa Claus isn’t what you think.

There is no jolly old man who rides through the skies in a magical sleigh with flying reindeer on Christmas Eve to deliver gifts to the children of the world. The North Pole is not a workshop manned by toy-making elves. There was a real person named Saint Nicholas whose existence inspired the idea of Santa we have today, but he wasn’t magic, and he has been gone for a very long time.

For your entire life, the gifts you have received on Christmas have been from Mom and Dad. We spend our time and money to find you presents that we think you will love. For weeks or even months before Christmas, we search around and make a plan to make Christmas a beautiful time for our children. We nibble on the cookies you leave out for Santa, and we even take a bite or two of the reindeers’ carrots.

When we do that, we are choosing to be Santa Claus.

For millions of children around the world, Santa represents the wonder and joy of Christmas. Creating a Christmas tradition that feels magical and exciting to our kids is one of the most fun and rewarding parts of being a parent.

But this Christmas is going to be the very best one yet because now, there are three ‘Santas’ in our house. Me, Daddy, and now, YOU.

I know you might be sad that the idea you had of Santa Claus wasn’t necessarily real, but I promise the best parts of Santa will always be part of Christmas. We will always take a family photo with Santa, bake delicious cookies, and decorate a big, beautiful tree.

We will watch our favorite movies, like “Elf” and “Home Alone”, and we will surprise each other with presents on Christmas morning. You’ll always wake up in our happy home to a delicious breakfast and maybe even a cup of hot cocoa.

Only now, you’ll get to be a sneaky co-conspirator in the magic. When your siblings see their gifts marked “from Santa,” you’ll get to give us a little wink because you know how much time and work it took for the three of us to be Santa for them.

It’s important that you don’t tell any other children about Santa! Parents know when it’s time to tell their own babies. Don’t spoil the fun for anyone else, okay?

I bet you have questions and feelings, and I’m here to talk about them all. Daddy and I are so proud of the person you are and the way you care for your siblings. We can’t wait to hear your ideas for how we can make Christmas even better. You’re going to be the best ‘Santa’ ever.

We love you so much.

Love, Mom and Dad (also known as Santa.)”

When he was done reading the letter, he looked up at me, and to my surprise, he was grinning.

He said, “I’m not sad! This makes Christmas even more exciting!” When I asked if he was shocked or disappointed, he smirked and said, “I already had a ‘suspishment,’” then he paused, crinkled his nose, and said, “Wait. Do I mean suspicion?”

We both laughed. He asked a few questions, I gave him a big squeeze, then we went shopping to choose a few little Christmas gifts for his siblings as his first official act as our family’s third “Santa.”

It’s bittersweet to watch your oldest child navigate this whole growing up thing. On one hand, there’s sadness to see those last fleeting bits of babyhood flutter away. On the other, it’s exciting to watch this child that you created grow into the person they’re going to choose to be, and joining you in the traditions you hold so dear.

Someday, I will invite my oldest son to help me tell his little brother the truth about Santa.

A few years from now, his baby sister will stop believing, too. But as long as I live, “Santa” will visit our home bringing gifts and sprinkling a little Christmas cheer wherever he goes.

Because the truth about Santa isn’t that he’s not real; it’s that he’s so much bigger than one man in a red suit and a present-laden sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Santa is just a face for the magical feeling of celebrating Christmas with the people you love most, and there’s no age limit on believing in that.

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