True story: I believed in Santa Claus until I was twelve years old. I mean, I was starting to have my doubts that a jolly, round man came into my home and put gifts under our tree while we were asleep, because my sisters and I decided to stay up all night and never heard a peep.
Then there was that time in ’84 when I lightly combed through all the gifts in my mother’s closet, saw a Peaches ‘n Cream Barbie in a bag, and woke up on Christmas morning to see a “From Santa” tag on the package.
Still, I held on tight to the idea Santa was real in some way because it was part of the holiday magic and charm that I loved so much.
My parents always made a big deal about leaving cookies and a beer out for Santa. Yes, a beer. After dealing with all those presents, reindeer, and chimney sliding, he didn’t want another mug of milk. My dad even brought in “reindeer poo” one year, saying Rudolph had an accident while he was eating a carrot. And there was always a note from Santa my mother wrote — with her left hand, so we wouldn’t recognize her handwriting.
This was one of the best parts of my childhood. I still remember it fondly, and now I appreciate the extra effort my parents put forth to make sure each holiday was extra special.
I wanted to do the same for my kids too. I wanted to carry on the tradition, and I did — proudly.
I’ve lied my ass off about a man in a red suit to my kids for as long as I could. Hell, I even used him as a bribe, which usually started around the end of August. It worked like a charm.
I loved the years when this person who didn’t exist brought comfort and joy to our entire family. I have zero shame around my lies.
If you are judging me for being a lying-liar face and think telling your child Santa is real is wrong, according to Rosemarie Truglio, a childhood development specialist and senior vice president of Education and Research at Sesame Workshop, I am not a horrible person.
And let’s be honest here, there are plenty of adults in the world who believe all the detox products actually detox and you can lose weight from sipping tea. We let them have their magic by keeping our traps shut, we can do the same for parents who tell their kids there really is a Santa Claus.
Rosemarie Truglio tells NPR these make believe characters are healthy and we should encourage the idea of Santa and the Tooth Fairy and engage with our children to promote these behaviors. So there.
Letting them in on the truth too early may strip away the magic too soon (not to mention all of your years of hard work).
But how long should we play this game of charades with our children? How do we handle it when they start asking questions like, “How does Santa get in if we don’t have a fireplace?” or ” Why does Santa have the same wrapping paper that you bought at Target?”
Liar Pro Tip: Get some odd Santa paper and hide it in a scary place in your basement. Your kids will never know and they’ll love seeing it every Christmas morning. They will know their Santa gift is wrapped in that special paper.
Truglio notes you may not have to tell the whole truth — your child may not be ready for that. As soon as they start asking questions, pay attention to what they are asking before you spill the beans. Her suggested response: “Why are you asking me?” This allows you to gauge how much they really want to know.
Letting them in on the truth too early may strip away that magic too soon (not to mention all of your years of hard work). Learning the truth about Santa (and the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy, for that matter) can be a gradual process that happens on their own timetable. Don’t feel ashamed or guilty for going along with the “lie” around the holidays either. After all, you’re just maintaining the image of the holidays they’ve had in their mind for years.
Believe me, you will know when they discover the whole truth and they are ready to move along into the next phase of their life. They’ll probably call you out in front of a crowd and let you know they are ready to give up the idea of Santa and the Tooth Fairy because they know exactly who they really are.
My youngest was the bearer of bad news in our house one morning after he’d lost a tooth. He stayed up and faked a sweet, sleeping face as I placed a few dollars under his pillow. He waited until his brother and sister were awake the next morning to make his move. He walked downstairs shouting, “Mom, I know the Tooth Fairy is you because I was awake last night when you put money under my pillow and if the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, then neither is Santa and you lied!”
No, he didn’t take a breath. No, he didn’t care his older brother and sister who still believed in all that magic could hear him. He was pissed off, and so were they.
I came clean and explained to them that while Santa wasn’t real, the magic of the holiday was still very much alive and parents do this for their children because they remember the way it made them feel when they were little, and they want their children to experience it too.
The following year the Santa gifts went away. They didn’t care about the elf moving around the house either, and when they lost a tooth they’d simply say, “I lost a tooth, can I have my money now?”
It was sad. But, I must admit, letting go of all of it also felt like freedom.
It didn’t mean the heartwarming feeling of the holidays was gone. It meant we started new traditions, like opening one gift before bed on Christmas eve, and we all help fill each other’s stockings now–something Santa used to do.
My kids are teenagers now and I miss those years when I’d dig out the Santa paper, write a note from Santa using my left hand, and use the jolly man as a way to get my kids to straighten up and act right. But, even though Santa is gone, magic still lives here.
And really, that’s all that matters since magic is what the season is all about.