• Wed, Dec 18 - 8:00 am ET

I Can’t Believe You Think Your Kids Really Care Who Brings Them All Those Presents On Christmas

shutterstock_167374007I’m getting tired of talking about “do you Santa or not?” (ok, that’s a lie, I love debating any point to death) because I really don’t think it makes much of a difference.  Some kids are tormented when they find out, some kids don’t care. In any event there’s no way to know at the time you have to make a decision, so you go with your gut as a parent and go with it.

I personally have chosen not to perpetuate the idea that a large old man in a red suit exists.  It certainly doesn’t affect the holiday for us.  My kids are still overjoyed at the snow on the ground here, they swoon at our tree daily and we sing all sorts of Christmas songs (yes, including Santa Claus is coming to town — do you have to be so literal?).  I still try to pry what toys they want most out of them, I make a hidden pile in Target for my husband to find and buy while we’re picking out cereal, and I wrap their presents special just for them. I still share in their excitement over Christmas coming and I cherish the look on their faces when they see the presents on Christmas morning. I do everything Santa Moms do, except all the answers to my questions involve one answer, “Santa’s not a real person.”

But the truth is, I really don’t care if you tell your kids about Santa or not.  You know who cares even less?  Your kids.  All they really care about is going to bed one night and the next morning waking up at some unholy hour and seeing PRETTY PRETTY PRESENTS under the tree.  I’m pretty sure they would be just as excited if you told them an Ewok brought them.

That’s why the decisions of this Babble blogger confuse me to no end.

My girls are 10 and 8, and trust me when I tell you it hasn’t been easy pulling off the mother of all lies magical ruse these past few years. There have been questions. (“But how does Santa get all the way around the world in a single night?” they want to know, a question deftly deflected with a simple word on my part: “Magic!”) There have been doubts. (“If this sweater is from Santa, why does it have a Macy’s tag on it?” they demand. “Santa makes deals with all of the stores in case people need to exchange things,” I trill.)

There have been hilarious moments of confusion. (When “Santa” dropped into a friend’s holiday party the day after we’d visited him at the mall and he asked my then 7-year-old what she wanted for Christmas, she looked at him like he was mad and replied, “I just told you yesterday!”)

I don’t know what age most kids find out that Santa doesn’t exist, but it seems an eight-year-old and ten-year-old could handle knowing that their family buys their presents.  I don’t see how that would rob them of Christmas spirit.  I don’t understand what she would lose if she didn’t go to such lengths to continue their belief in Santa.  But maybe I just don’t get Santa.  I don’t remember actually believing in him even though I’ve thought it was the most magical holiday for my entire life.  To me the two — Santa Claus and the spirit of Christmas — don’t go hand in hand.

When we’re talking about young children, I really don’t think it’s “lying” if you let your kids believe.  But this extent?  This is just something I can’t get my head around.

(photo: Sonet/Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Carinn Jade, on twitter.
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  • LadyClodia

    It would definitely make things a lot easier to not have to do the Santa stuff. I have to make sure that I have different wrapping paper, bows, and tags for their “Santa” gifts because while my 5 year old is oblivious to most things it’s something like that that he would notice. I was detail oriented too. I don’t know how old I was, probably 6 or 7, when I stopped believing because I recognized my parents’ handwriting and I didn’t buy their excuses anymore. And yeah, they don’t care who brings their presents. I don’t think that my oldest had any clue that we even got presents for him, I guess he assumed they were all from Santa. It had just never occurred to me to not do the Santa thing. Which is funny because we had decided to not do SinterKlaas, but that was for mostly logistical reasons. But now that our oldest is 5, I don’t think we have a way to drop the Santa thing tactfully until he stops believing on his own.

    • TheGiantPeach

      The wrapping paper was never an issue in my family. Santa only brings one unwrapped gift and fills a stocking that is left under the tree for him. All of the wrapped presents were from our parents and were clearly labeled as such. I think it’s interesting how families do things so differently.

    • AP

      My childhood Santa used to leave unwrapped gifts, until Santa had a conversation with the other Santas at school pickup and realized that wrapping everything made Christmas morning gift opening last longer, as the Elves were unhappy at how quickly the children were going through their presents and not recognizing the hard work and money spent to create those presents in the North Pole Workshop.

    • Snarktopus

      When I was younger, we would just leave tubes of wrapping paper out for Santa to use to wrap the presents.

    • LadyClodia

      That’s a great idea!

  • Kay_Sue

    We commit to the basics. We have an Elf, we buy different wrapping paper, we eat the cookies and drink the milk, we leave a typed letter (the kids write one to Santa saying thanks every year)…

    If our kids were smart enough to puzzle out the tags in the clothes, I don’t think we would bend over backwards to make up stories. My folks didn’t. And the fact is, at the end of the day, I still believe in “Santa” as the spirit of the season, so I don’t think it would be difficult to transition our kids into a similar idea.

    Going to extremes just seems like you’re into it more for you than for the kids.

  • brebay

    I don’t know, we still got presents after we stopped believing in Santa, but it was missing something, wasn’t as much fun, wasn’t as magical or exciting. Sure, everyone loves getting stuff, but I cared. It made a difference to me. My kids are less excited knowing it’s just me, rather than the magic of the whole Santa fable. 8 and 10 seems a little old to me, but every kid is different. If you really don’t care, let’s quit having this battle of the mommy wars every year and just let people do what they do.

    • Mel

      It’s pretty insulting to suggest that women can’t have a simple discussion without it being labeled a “mommy war.” This, to me, is just another topic.

    • brebay

      I didn’t mean to insinuate that, but I can see that as a takeaway from my comment. I guess in general, arguments about preference just never seem to get anyone very far. People say they don’t care what others do, but then so many posts decrying the other way as “perpetuating a LIE,” or “being a Scrooge” (not this one necessarily) which really sounds like people getting defensive, seem to pop up and it starts to feel that way. So, to me it is, to you, it’s not, and that’s cool, both are valid, I think.

  • Mai Katayama

    Yeah, I don’t think kids care. They just want the gifts, and whether mom and dad put it under the tree or an overweight old man in a red suit…don’t think they could care less!

  • Janok Place

    I’m going to do it, simply because it’s such a small period of time in the grand scheme of things. I’ll never have the opportunity to do this again. I think there is something to be said for letting kids believe in a magical figure who does nothing but good for others with no personal gain. It’s a beautiful way to show them early on that you don’t need a *reason* to do beautiful things for others. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep it up, once they really start to question it I might throw in the towel. Or maybe I’ll go my mom’s route, and shame my 20 something kids for implying my beloved Santie Clause no longer exists. Seriously, that woman is committed to the Santa Cause.

    • Jessica

      My in-laws are similarly committed. Every present still says “from Santa.”

    • Janok Place

      Although, the brilliant side of her scheme… She also gets “from Santa” gifts… Maybe that’s her secret… she can buy her own presents. You know, the older I get, the more I see brilliance in my mother’s decisions lol.

    • pineapplegrasss

      I just realized right now that this is the error of my ways. I don’t participate in the Santalie either, and right now I truly regret it. I could be buying myself presents from Santa? Genius.

    • Janok Place

      Right? I mean it’s all for the Santa Cause after all, and what kind of Santa would forget the hard working moms of the world? Amirite, or Amirite?

    • pineapplegrasss

      Seriously, and now I’ve been trying to think of how to get presents from the easterbunny too. And what else is there? umm, not the toothfairy tho, I’m not ready to loose my teeth yet.

    • Janok Place

      I dunno.. If I was concerned about losing my teeth, maybe conning presents out of the Easter Bunny would not be my best judgement call… Just sayin ;)

    • pineapplegrasss

      oh haha good point.

  • lin

    My kids care where the presents came from, and so did I as a child. I was way more excited about Santa than about what the presents were. Baking the cookies for him, trying to stay up late to see him, the magic of it all. I still remember the feeling of believing in magic, and I think that is important and the feeling has stayed with me. I gradually figured out Santa wasn’t real, and was not traumatized about it. I’m sure other families still enjoy the season without Santa, to each their own. But for us it wouldn’t be the same.

    • Jessica

      My kids care too. There’s lists, cookies and plans to somehow catch him in our living room. My one daughter made Santa a book of puzzles and jokes so he wouldn’t get bored on the long drive, and she’s been crafting it since October. Someday we will adjust with older kids who don’t believe, but for now I am very happy with the magic.

  • Harriet Meadow

    I think I found out in kindergarten or first grade from one of my fellow students. I wasn’t upset, and I kept up the charade for quite a while because of my two little sisters. My brother-in-law was the youngest in his family by quite a lot (he’s only fifteen now and my husband is almost 34), and he still believed in Santa at age ten (and he’s homeschooled so there was no one his age to spoil it for him). :/

  • LiteBrite

    I’m much older than my siblings, so I still got Santa presents, even in my teens. Yeah, I knew Santa wasn’t real, but I admit some of the magic of Xmas was gone for me knowing that my new makeup set was purchased by Mom at Kmart for about $15.

    That’s why I try to preserve at least some of that magic for my son. He leaves cookies for Santa, and I crumble them up for the boy to see the next a.m., so he thinks Santa ate them. (Note: We also leave beer. Trust me; Santa needs a little boost after traveling the world.) I sprinkle glitter outside, so it looks like reindeer were out. And yes, I move that stupid Elf on the Shelf around every couple of days or so, just because it makes my son happy. I do these things because at six he still has that ability to believe in the magic of Christmas, and that’s part of the fun of being a kid.

    Will it kill him to know Santa isn’t real? No, I’m sure he’ll go on with his life. But for now I think he does care, and I’m trying to preserve a little bit of that illusion because he has far more years ahead of him to know that it doesn’t exist.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Beer is a seriously awesome idea.

    • Janok Place

      Or a couple ounces of Bailey’s in the milk… I bet you Santa would really appreciate the gesture!

    • LiteBrite

      There’s a funny Christmas parody song to the tune of “I am Ironman” called “I am Santa Clause.” One of the lines from the son is “Leave him cookies and beer. He’ll be back to your house first next year.”

      Seems to be true. :)

    • tSubh Dearg

      Growing up in Ireland, I think nearly everyone left out beer of some sort for Santa. Guinness was a particular favourite with him when he visited our house.

  • Savannah61

    Yes! My parents did the exact same thing you are doing. I have no lingering psychological problems and I still absolutely LOVE Christmas. I loved it when I was little, too. To each their own, but I definitely plan on following in my parents’ footsteps on this one.

  • DatNanny

    I would do the whole thing with my kids when they’re little, but I really could not imagine going to lengths to make an eight and ten year keep believing. That’s where it really devolves into a lie to me. Children are perceptive. These children have likely picked it up from their peers, or the tons of media that references Santa not being real. Sounds like they’re confused and trying to get a straight answer out of mom, and she’s running around them with lies. At that age, the ‘magic’ is probably gone, and what they need is to know they can have a real discussion with their mother.

  • Beckhole

    Why do you make a hidden pile of toys in Target for your husband to find and buy? Are you not allowed to make the big purchases?

    • My2bits

      Because the kids are probably with her.

    • Beckhole

      They would see her making a pile of toys though.

  • CMP414

    I was 9 when I found out the truth about Santa. I had kinda already figured it so I wasnt bummed. Btw, would like to get other Mommyish opinions on this. My husband’s little cousin is 13 years old and still legit believes in Santa. To me that seemed way old but I don’t know. I honestly never met anyone over 10 who hadnt already quit believing. What do you all think?

    • LiteBrite

      Yeah, that seems really old to me too. It’s kind of surprising actually, but I have a feeling though that the reality will come to him/her fairly soon.

      My niece is 9 and is absolutely the tooth fairy is real. Some kids just have that “nothing is impossible” brain wiring. :)

    • Sundaydrive00

      Are they home schooled? I teach 7th graders (so 12/13 year olds) and during the holidays they love talking about how Santa isn’t real. I can’t imagine a child going that long without hearing the truth from their peers.

      I have a friend whose 10 year old brother still believes. I was surprised when she posted on Instagram a picture of his letter to Santa. I would think by 8 most kids would understand the whole Santa thing.

    • CMP414

      Nope both he and his 11 yr old sister (who also believes) go to public school and play on various sports teams in the neighborhood so they know alot of kids their own ages. I’m just glad I heard they believed still before I opened my big mouth!

    • Sundaydrive00

      Thats surprising then that they haven’t been told otherwise by their classmates. Or maybe they really know the truth but don’t want to ruin Christmas so they’re just going along with it.

    • guest

      This may possibly be it – my ex’s little sister who was about 12/13 at the time knew he wasn’t real, but her parents so in love with her innocence believed that she believed because she didn’t say anything. It was great – for her, and for them. I never believed in Santa being real, but I always believed that the idea was magical and beautiful.

    • pineapplegrasss

      the child has to be playing along for fun right? I just can’t see a 13yo that naïve. Santa just doesn’t make logical sense

    • CMP414

      These kids are sweet but seem super young for their ages. I’m totally shocked no kids at school have broken the news to them yet.

  • Rochelle

    I disagree. The whole Santa thing makes the difference between Christmas being fun because you get stuff, or Christmas being magical and you get stuff. The Santa thing is one of the most cherished aspects of my childhood. My parents didn’t go above and beyond to convince me and the lie revealed itself slowly over time. Of course like most children I chose to believe in him longer than I logically did, simply to hold onto the magic a little longer. I wasn’t upset about being lied to, but Christmas was a bit duller after I lost my belief in Santa, despite getting presents.

  • Cat

    My brother and I learned the truth at… I’m going to guess 4&5 years old. We were told the Christmas is a time when we show our love for one another through generosity. We got to help stuff stockings, which was a magical experience for us.
    It certainly didn’t ruin anything for either of us.