• Sat, Dec 7 - 11:00 am ET

Anonymous Mom: I Think I Might Be Ready To Let My Daughter Have Santa

116032654I was told the truth about Santa Claus at an early age. I was four. I remember it. I was standing on the couch, in the evening, and my mother told me that it was a pretend game, that she and my dad were the real Santa in our house, and my whole body went hot for a moment as I wrapped my brain around this information. “Did you hear what I said?” she finally asked when I hadn’t said anything. “Can I still believe in Santa anyway?” I asked, slowly. “Sure,” she said. She looked relieved.

I cannot blame my mother for telling me something that I clearly did yet want to know. My aunt had just recently converted to Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I had been asking a lot of uncomfortable questions about why my cousins weren’t getting Christmas presents, and I think my mom was just getting tired of having to make up increasingly elaborate lies. I would like to think that I wouldn’t lie to my daughter, either, or, at the very least, that I raise my daughter to not lie about the big things.

While I don’t really even consider this a bad memory, per se, it was the beginning of my, so far, lifelong ambiguity with Santa. I was definitely the kid who got in trouble for telling the other kids the truth (well, at least my babysitter’s kids, and, frankly, they were asking for it), and I recall that my welcoming words to my brother upon his birth, when I was seven, were, “Welcome to the world, baby! There’s no Santa.”

So imagine how conflicted the upcoming Christmas season is making me feel now that my toddler is old enough to be aware of it. I have no idea—none!—what to tell her about Santa. My daughter is now three, and I really thought that in those three years, I would have figured out some strategy. Before I ever had a child, I pictured him or her precocious and self-aware in this situation. “Santa Claus? Who’s that?” my child would innocently ask me. “It’s a seasonal representation of your progenitors’ wallets,” I would answer. And then we would all have a jolly wintertime secular laugh together at everyone else and their crass commercialism. And then eggnog or something! I don’t know! My point is, my kid was going to be insufferable about this subject, dammit. Just like me.

I don’t know how I should feel about this holiday now. It’s the Santa thing that throwing me. Somehow, without my interference one way or another, without my ever having really mentioned the subject, my kid knows all about Santa and understands all the rules that go along with him. Of course she’s been getting gifts for Christmas every year, but I have never said that something came from Santa, or, if she asked who gave her something in particular, I have specifically said that her mom and dad got it for her.

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  • Andrea

    A lot of people have the point of view that lying to children is wrong and the whole Santa thing is no exception.
    I remember when I was 6 years old and some snotty ass kid told me Santa wasn’t real and I ran to my mom and I asked her and of course she told me the truth. I was DEVASTATED. I wanted her to lie. I wanted her to tell me that of course he was real and that I could keep the magic alive. I promised myself I would NEVER do that to my children.
    I have kept the magic alive for my children and will continue to do so until they are definitely too old for it. For anyone that questions it, I would invite them to my house on Xmas Eve so they can see the wonder in my child’s eyes as he “tracks” Santa on NORAD every year. I would invite them to see the joy he feels when he thinks he “hears” Santa’s bells late that night. The smiles on Xmas morning when he reads the letter “Santa” left.
    Life is tough, rough, and full of disappointments. Why wouldn’t I want to make their childhoods as magical as possible?? It only lasts a few precious short years before the realities of the world intrude.

    • cesp

      I love you :). I don’t think that there is such a thing as being “too old” for santa. If you want to believe until your 20 then go ahead, have fun and be happy. We need a little more magic in our lives. I also think people are a little too hung up on the whole lie thing. The world isn’t black and white and some lies are actually a good thing. Like telling your spouse that the holiday weight they gained makes them more attractive or that you love all of your children equally.

    • Andrea

      Agreed! :)

    • Aldonza

      In my household, those who don’t believe in Santa do not get presents. My brother and I (33 and 31) still put out cookies and write Santa a note when we’re at my folk’s house for Christmas.

    • cesp

      Lol, my parents do the same thing. We use to leave our letters to Santa in our shoes for the elves, I think it’s a German tradition. Even when we were all in our late teens my parents insisted that if we didn’t do it we wouldn’t be getting any presents. And inevitably every year we get a stocking from Santa filled with candy and a little toy. Last year my siblings and I (all adults, mind you) got coloring books and crayons. All four of us immediately sarted using them, making a big deal over coloring inside the lines and arguring over whos picture was best. My mom was lauging so hard there were tears in her eyes and all of our signifigant others kept giving each other confused glances as if asking “what the hell did we get ourselves into”. I think Santa means as much to my parents as he did to us and I really look forawrd to experiencing the whole tradition as a parent.

    • St. Nicki

      My dad who is sixty gets presents from Santa still. I love it. I’m just sad that I don’t anymore.

    • Julie

      My siblings and I are all adults and my mom still leaves presents under the tree from Santa for us. I would be very sad if she didn’t do that anymore. I LOVE the magic of the season I hope I can do that for my own daughter.

  • Michelle

    Very cute. My husband just asked me if we will lie to my 6mo old about Santa. Kind of caught me off guard bc I’ve never felt like it was lying. I just figured we would go along with it. My mom is a elementary school teacher so her line was always, it doesn’t work if you don’t believe. I thought that was a nice way to put it without feeling like you’re a big liar.

  • momjones

    Great writing. I love the last paragraph of your article!

  • Tinyfaeri

    People have to start out believing the little lies so they can believe the big lies (yay Terry Pratchett…


    • Tea

      All my upvotes! (Reading Hogfather right now)

    • Tinyfaeri

      Yay! It was such a great book, and then I found out that it was also a movie. When you’re done the book, you need to see the movie, they came super close to nailing the picture I had of Death in my head (a loveable, cute, fuzzy-hearted, emotive, 6 ft tall skeleton with cloak/scythe). Even Binky was pretty Binky-ish.

    • Tea

      I caught the moivie, first, then fell in love with the books. I made my husband a 5-foot tall painting of Death and Death of Rats from Soul Music, which hangs proudly by his computer.

    • Tinyfaeri

      Aw, that’s so sweet, and I’m appropriately jealous. :) Death is my all time favorite character from any book or series. Binky and Death of Rats are tied for second.

    • Elisa Probert

      I believe in the Hogfather!

      OK, not really, but he nails something that, to me, is a very important piece of the Saint Nicholas mythos. There is an element of sacrifice in some of the old stories, that gets left out of today’s Santa. To me that’s what giving is about, giving up something, usually some amount of money, or time, to make someone else happy. That’s the Santa I want my future kids to know.

  • Lackadaisical

    I don’t think allowing kids to maintain the illusion of Santa does any harm, so long as you don’t take it to extremes like an acquaintance ranting that her 13 year old son’s teacher referred to him not being real in a critical analysis of a poem in class. A boy of 13 who has no clue that Father Christmas is imaginary runs the risk of being bullied and his teachers shouldn’t be expected to walk on eggshells in case a class of 13 year olds don’t know.

    I talk as if Father Christmas is real at all times with my kids but with my eldest (10) we waggle our eyebrows knowingly and glance at the younger ones. He didn’t need me to tell him (or classmates), he figured it out at about 6, but he never openly discussed it. He just hinted about it and I hinted back as we both shot each other warning glances in the direction of the the little ones to remind each other not to shatter the illusion for them. He takes keeping his younger siblings happy very seriously and so pays lip service to Father Christmas without believing. He is a born sceptic, who decided for himself that the tooth fairy and ghosts aren’t real and even decided for himself that he is an atheist at the age of 7. I don’t know what we will do about his brother, who is now 7 and believes absolutely anything. At some point I will need to make sure that he knows so that he doesn’t get teased but I won’t shatter that illusion before this Christmas. Their sister is 4 and believes wholeheartedly and hopefully will enjoy a few more years of the magic.

    • Kay_Sue

      I was the same way with my younger sisters. Honestly, participating in the illusion for them was just one other way to keep the magic alive for me.

  • JussyLee

    I am, and always have been, a deeply sensitive person. I was a particularly sentimental and naive child. This aspect of my personality wasn’t always understood or appreciated by some key people in my life, and I had many traumatic experiences where my earnest faithfulness was misdirected by those people. I’ve had to learn on my own how to manage my emotional nature and embrace it as an asset rather than a weakness.

    I am expecting my first child. When I share future Christmases with him, I won’t engender a belief in Santa. The “magic” of Christmas is very real to me because I see it all over the place in the real world. It’s in the hustle of and bustle of every last person shopping for gifts in thoughtfulness of their loved ones. It’s in the festive rainbow of decorations that spring up everywhere, from the facades of major businesses, to the balconies of ghetto apartments. It’s in the buskers shivering on the street performing carols, and teenagers ringing Salvation Army bells, and little old ladies baking cookies for their hairdressers, and my neighbor dragging a step-stool out in the snow everyday to refill his bird feeder. I will point my child’s attention to these tangible embodiments of the Christmas spirit, because they will encourage and validate a solid, positive sense of wonder in the world a lot more effectively than a temporary belief in a fictional character.

  • tSubh Dearg

    Santa still brings stockings to everyone in my family, even my mum & dad get stockings from him, as do any other overnight visitors on the 24th. He’s great for bringing new socks, some chocolates and my favourite face cream. :)

    • Kay_Sue

      Santa always brings the best socks. I never appreciated this as a child, but I sure do now. :)

    • tSubh Dearg

      I know right?! The elves clearly are sock making champions. They are always the softest, warmest and most comfortable socks imaginable. I can never buy the same for myself during the year.

  • Diana

    I was always told that Santa was the spirit of Chrismas. Ie he was a non-corporial being (which explained a lot) that personified human generosity. So when I was about 7 and realized he wasn’t real I wasn’t at all upset because he was actually real, in a slightly more intangible way. Working through my family and friends. I still believe come to think of it.

  • Edify

    My friend is going to tell her 3 year old about the whole Santa thing this year. He has a very big mouth and he is my daughters best friend. I’m feeling very sad that it looks like the magic will be over here before we are ready too.

    • Andrea

      Preempt it. PREEMPT IT NOW. Tell her that Santa is real to those that truly believe. Tell her what my kids told me when they were confronted with snooty asses that told them he wasn’t real: “I don’t see how they can say that, any fool can see him at the mall!”
      She’s only 3! Keep the magic alive!

    • Edify

      I desperately want to keep it alive and I’m trying to work out how to do a pre-emptive strike without it causing her to actually ask more questions about why I’m actually saying that. She’s pretty switched on and not much gets passed her.

    • Andrea

      Movies. Somethings like The Year Without Santa can prompt an age appropriate discussion. You don’t have to get too deep into it, just enough so that she’s prepared to counter strike. LOL

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      If it makes you feel any better, I believed waaaaaay after my friends all converted to non-believers. I remember arguing with them and only one other girl on my class was on my side. But Santa still came to my house, so he had to be real! I agree with Andrea. Preempt it somehow. Like, Santa keeps coming as long as you keep believing, that’s why he doesn’t go to _____ house anymore.

    • Edify

      It’s fun to have the magic. I hope she chooses to believe

    • Kresaera

      3 is so young to tell them!

    • Edify

      How can you trust a 3 year old to respect other peoples choice to let their kids have this?

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      You can’t. It’s pretty shitty. I’d keep my kid away around Christmas time :)

    • CrazyLogic

      My uncle caught my grandmother playing Santa when he was four. He went all quiet and slipped into his room. When he came out he asked, “Does this mean there is no Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy or God?”

      My fairly religious Grandmother had a heart attack and a little atheist was born that day.

  • Ddaisy

    You silly people who think Santa isn’t real. I figured out at an early age that it only works if you believe and ever since, I’ve felt bad for all those poor cynical kids whose parents had to fake it.
    Which reminds me, I have a letter to go write… ;)

  • Kay_Sue

    An intriguing look, Anon. I think going with your heart is a good place to start. It does add a little magic to the entire Christmas season, somehow. I love it, personally. I’m a total Scrooge–it’s truth, I’ll own it–except when it comes to Santa-ing. And I Santa everyone–husband, kids, family members, best friend, dog……it’s a whole lot of fun.

  • FF4life

    When I was pregnant I was adamant about telling only the truth to my daughter… Including Santa. Idealistic theories don’t always work. I tell my daughter the most outrageous lies. We can’t go to the park because it’s closed on days mommy is tired, she can’t watch cartoons when Supernatural is on because that channel is broken, and she has to clean her room because Santa is watching.

  • CrazyLogic

    In my family, we were told the truth when we were eight. I was surprised my brothers kept the secret until my turn. Even then, we were told not to tell the other kids.

    Why? Because what families did about Santa was their own business. And some parents had so much fun with the game that was Santa Clause, they couldn’t bear for it to end. They told me that some families had a set age to tell them, like ours did, and others would explain the truth if the kid asked questions that couldn’t be answered.

    I say let the magic stick and never let it go away. The truth may come out, but the magic and joy should be held on to for the rest of their lives.

  • Tsitika

    Aw I work at a Santa set and it’s just amazing to see how happy the kids get. When I think about it, it’s a really weird thing for a culture to do (let’s make our kids believe in a random guy bringing them presents!) but it’s become this lovely, happy, magical thing and I love it! We get teenagers with their first boyfriend/girlfriend, little kids meeting him for the first time, older siblings keeping the magic alive for younger siblings, newly married couples – everyone gets in on it! My favourites are the preteens, who know the truth and act like they’re going along with it just for their parents…then when Santa knows their name and starts chatting to them, they end up with huge, genuine grins.

    My set is in a really multicultural area too, and we get a lot of people who don’t celebrate Christmas, but the kids love Santa anyway! I had one kid the other day, and I asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he said, “Actually, we don’t celebrate Christmas.” I said oh, well that’s okay, what do you want to say to Santa? And he goes, very seriously, “I want to wish HIM a merry Christmas.” So cute.

    I don’t know, it seems like something that could be really easy to get wrong – it’s all lies, basically, and mostly about wanting commercial things. Yet somehow we’ve turned it into this really sweet holiday tradition, so hooray for that!

  • Mella

    Well-written! My hubby was also told about Santa at a young age and didnt think he wanted to lie to the kids. He’s learned over the last few years that the magic that goes along with Santa is worth the white lie. We have such a short time to be innocent about the real world as children, it’s worth it to me.

  • Meg

    I had a wild imagination and believed longer than most. Around 8 I remember feeling that bubbly, magic feeling of Christmas going away..and it got worse with each year. Logic came into play and I could no longer believe. This honestly broke my heart. However, I never wanted to lose the stocking tradition so I kept my mouth shut til I was 11! Was writing my “Santa Letter” (which I’d know for several years would go to my mum on her shopping trips) when she looked into my eyes and asked, so, so gently, “Megan…Do you…believe in Santa?” I admitted that no, for the past several years I hadn’t but was NOT about to give up my stocking! We had a giggle and that was it. I really think that whatever way a child finds out, its going to be a painful let down. I as also raised Christian and believed Santa and God were in cahoots (he sees you when you’re sleeping??)…Let kids have him, no one is scarred by Santa!

    • bozzgirl

      I was exactly the same… I figured it out on my own. Little clues like how Santa’s hand writing looked like my mom’s and the Christmas Eve present wrapping sessions I would hear from my room. Once I realized Santa was not “real”, I didn’t want to say anything because I thought I wouldn’t get as many presents.

  • Janok Place

    Everyone needs to chill out, immediately. You’re not lying to your kids, you’re telling them a wonderful story which they will believe along with countless other odd things until they are old enough to realize that it isn’t reality. Reality sucks, and there is no magic. I love my mom, maybe she was a little too serious, too grown up, too impatient. Maybe she didn’t play enough, probably because she was too tired. But to this day, if you call Santa a fake she will vehemently call you a liar. She’s never once admitted he didn’t exist, and I don’t believe she ever will. I think, in her mind, if we all just keep believing then we will somehow keep the magic alive for the children around us. Maybe she figures, if by some remote chance he was real, she’d like to be on his side. Maybe she watched Miracle on 34th street one too many times… Because of this, I still get gifts from Santa and I know my daughter and our future child will get Santa gifts well into their teens and twenties. Every body relax, man-up, and put some heart into the story of Santa. It’s the “Mom” thing to do.

  • SA

    It is a hard one. I don’t have any memory of believing in Santa. Before I was three I had come up with a few reasons on why I didn’t believe he existed and told my mom and she agreed with me and that was that. I’m glad my mom fessed up since I was already working it out in my head. The same thing happened with my husband at a young age, so really neither one of us has the desire to play up the Santa angle. I will say that Christmas ALWAYS felt so very magical for me even knowing that Santa wasn’t real. Seeing my extended family, an extended vacation from school, baking treats I normally didn’t get, colder weather, Christmas carols, Christmas movies, etc…all of it was magical because I knew it was only once a year kinda thing, so I definitely do not think that not-believing made it any less magical. So we probably won’t “do” Santa, but if my kid decides she really wants to believe, I won’t make a big deal out of explaining the truth, and will probably do one small Santa gift, but won’t get carried away, there is so MUCH more to make magical at this time of year than just a man in a red suit.

  • Snowlilly

    I told my son about Saint Nick the person, and how the grown ups liked the idea of what he did so much that we continued the tradition. So the grown ups pretend to be Santa and give the gifts. It’s a fun thing to pretend, and while he knows the truth, he still likes to pretend along with us grown ups and go visit Santa. I also told him that some parents don’t think their children are ready to know it is pretend yet, so we don’t tell other kids. We will let the parents tell them when the parents think they are ready. Now, he gets to pretend to be Santa and give gifts to less fortunate children. He loves to pretend to be Santa too :)